Clothing Terms Are Mostly Ridiculous, part 89

By the way, do you want to know what’s square? The “pocket square.” Can you bring yourself to say that word in mixed company? It’s the clothing equivalent of drinking Coca-Cola with a straw. If you need further evidence of its dismal qualities, just think about how it gave birth to the execrable “pocket circle,” a doily by any other name… .
 We can rechristen the pocket square a “je ne sais quoi”—when someone asks about that, you can just look at it, pull it out, twirl it in the air like a pom-pom and say, in an uninterested sort of way, “Oh, this? This is just a little je ne sais quoi.” Then you stuff it back in your pocket, bid adieu, and hasten to the nearest men’s bathroom to nervously reshape, repuff, and fix the points. Snap a picture in the mirror, crop out the head, and post it to your Tumblr and you’re back in action. Here’s looking at you, playboy.

—Styleforum member Sprout2 on the phrase “pocket square.” Image: Jeff Goldblum accessorizes in Portlandia.
-Pete

Clothing Terms Are Mostly Ridiculous, part 89

By the way, do you want to know what’s square? The “pocket square.” Can you bring yourself to say that word in mixed company? It’s the clothing equivalent of drinking Coca-Cola with a straw. If you need further evidence of its dismal qualities, just think about how it gave birth to the execrable “pocket circle,” a doily by any other name… .

 We can rechristen the pocket square a “je ne sais quoi”—when someone asks about that, you can just look at it, pull it out, twirl it in the air like a pom-pom and say, in an uninterested sort of way, “Oh, this? This is just a little je ne sais quoi.” Then you stuff it back in your pocket, bid adieu, and hasten to the nearest men’s bathroom to nervously reshape, repuff, and fix the points. Snap a picture in the mirror, crop out the head, and post it to your Tumblr and you’re back in action. Here’s looking at you, playboy.

Styleforum member Sprout2 on the phrase “pocket square.” Image: Jeff Goldblum accessorizes in Portlandia.

-Pete

This month’s Gentlemen’s Association pocket squares are made of vintage Japanese cotton. There are actually a few designs, all in indigo, but this is the most common. You’ve missed the boat on this design (sorry), but if you’d like to get in on the next shipment, join the Association now.
(Thanks to member David K. for the photo!)

This month’s Gentlemen’s Association pocket squares are made of vintage Japanese cotton. There are actually a few designs, all in indigo, but this is the most common. You’ve missed the boat on this design (sorry), but if you’d like to get in on the next shipment, join the Association now.

(Thanks to member David K. for the photo!)

The Advantage of Unusual Designs in Pocket Squares

Like with ties, I find it’s easy to acquire more pocket square than you need. This is true for almost any accessory, really. As I mentioned before, accessories tend to be easier to size right, are relatively more affordable, and can satisfy that urge to buy something new. Before you know it, you have dozens of ties and pocket squares, and not nearly enough sport coats or suits to justify your collection.

In my time wearing pocket squares, I’ve come to realize that I mostly rely on just three types. The first is clean white linen, which I like to wear with everything except tweeds. Then there are madder silks, which I find to be useful in the fall and winter months. For some reason, those are a bit hard to find (especially in soft, muted colors), but Ralph Lauren sometimes stocks them.

Then there’s the third category, which I think is the most useful – squares with large, intricate designs of the kind that you’d never see in ties. The advantage of these is that you never run the risk of looking like you bought your tie and pocket square as part of a matching set (which you should never do, by the way). With a big, bold pattern – as opposed to something like pin dots – you can always be sure that your square will stand on its own, but still harmonize with whatever else you’re wearing through some complementary color. Plus, if you find something with the right square, you can get a bit more versatility by simply turning the square a bit here or there to show off the colors you want. That’s much hard to do if every inch of your square is essentially the same repeating pattern.

In recent years, the number of places where you can buy such squares has exploded. There are the standards, of course, in the form of Drake’s and Rubinacci, both of which produce beautiful pieces. You can purchase those directly through each brand’s shops, or through various online retailers such as No Man Walks Alone, A Suitable Wardrobe, Exquisite Trimmings, Malford of London, Mr. Porter, and our advertiser The Hanger Project. There are also a number of other operations worth considering:

Put This On: The first is of course our pocket square shop. Jesse finds vintage and deadstock fabrics from online sellers and thrift shops, and then has them handmade into pocket squares through a tailor in Los Angeles. That means having the edges handrolled with a nice plump edge, rather than something machined and flat.
Vanda Fine Clothing: Run by the newlywed couple Diana and Gerald, these two produce excellent high-end ties and pocket squares – all hand sewn by them in their workshop in Singapore. Recently, they came out with a series of Chinese zodiac squares, which add a bit of personalization for the wearer.
Ikire Jones: Ikire Jones is a relatively new company run by a finalist in one of Esquire’s “Best Dressed Real Man” competitions. The designer, Wale Oyejide, is a bold dresser with a strong sense of color. Whether you’re a conservative dresser such as myself, or more daring, I think his pocket squares are quite useful. I reviewed them here.
Christian Kimber: Christian has some refreshingly modern designs with abstracted shapes made to look like famous landmarks. At the moment, there are squares representing London, Melbourne, and Florence, but more cities will be released sometime this year.
P. Johnson Tailors: Like Christian Kimber, P. Johnson also produces designs with a slightly more modern sensibility. Their squares tend to have large swaths of color, so you might want to think about how you normally fold your square, lest you look like you’re wearing something that’s one solid color.
Kent Wang: Always a good source for more affordable options, Kent has printed more unique looking pocket squares in the last year. The only thing to watch out for is the size. I find that squares smaller than 15” x 15” feel a bit too insubstantial, although your taste may differ.

(Photos above by The SartorialistChristian KimberRubinacciMalford of LondonVanda Fine Clothing, and us)

Pocket Squares & Fine Motor Skills
Reader Peter O. dropped a line with some remarkable back story to one of our Winter 2014 pocket squares. The square was illustrated by an artist and musician named Edwyn Collins. Collins (who was a member of the influential post-punk group Orange Juice, known for their hit Rip It Up) had a stroke in 2005, leaving his motor skills severely compromised.
When his doctor learned Collins was an illustrator and artist, he recommend an unusual therapy: that each day he sketch a bird. The fabric is the result of this process, with the earliest illustrations being rough-hewn, and the more recent ones growing finer and finer as Collins’ health improved.
An impressive story.
Honestly, I picked it because it was so beautiful.

Pocket Squares & Fine Motor Skills

Reader Peter O. dropped a line with some remarkable back story to one of our Winter 2014 pocket squares. The square was illustrated by an artist and musician named Edwyn Collins. Collins (who was a member of the influential post-punk group Orange Juice, known for their hit Rip It Up) had a stroke in 2005, leaving his motor skills severely compromised.

When his doctor learned Collins was an illustrator and artist, he recommend an unusual therapy: that each day he sketch a bird. The fabric is the result of this process, with the earliest illustrations being rough-hewn, and the more recent ones growing finer and finer as Collins’ health improved.

An impressive story.

Honestly, I picked it because it was so beautiful.

Put This On: Winter 2014

We’re so happy to share a small collection of winter pocket squares. Among them are some of the most remarkable we’ve ever made.

You can find all of our squares in our shop, and our Winter 2014 collection here.

Back In Stock: Vintage Rayon Pocket Squares

I spent about a year collecting rayon from the 1940s and 50s to make our collection of vintage rayon pocket squares. We just realized we’d allow some of the few that are left to drop out of stock in our store - if you’d like to get in on the action, take a look at what we’ve just relisted.

And how about this? If you’re getting ready for the holidays, here’s a special deal: spend $250 or more, and get fifty bucks back with the code HOLIDAYREADY.

Q & Answer: Can I Wear A Suit Without A Tie?
John asks: I work for a large multinational company. I see a lot of management, including C-level execs, wearing jackets without ties. I know how PTO feels about ties without jackets, and I agree, but what about the opposite?  When is it OK to wear a jacket but not a tie with your shirt unbuttoned? What’s the point?
You’re right: we generally think the tie-without-coat look is goofy. Makes you look, at best, like a bank teller. But the reverse? A-OK.
Here are some ways to make it work and some things to remember:
A suit is the ultimate flattering garment for a man; subtracting the tie doesn’t change that (much).  As you can see on Tom Ford, above, it can be a clean look, especially for evening.
A button-down collar shirt goes great with a soft, American-style casual sportcoat or blazer. With or without tie. It’s a classic casual look. Throw a sweater underneath and you’ve gone Full Granduncle.
Is a suit with no tie appropriate for business? Well, that depends on the business. It’s certainly a better look than the aforementioned tie-no-coat thing. If the executives are wearing it, it’ll probably fly.
It’s easier for this look to become sloppy, so make sure you’re sharp, like Ford, and not a hot mess.
Not all shirts are created equal here. As we mentioned: with more casual coats, like tweed, hopsack and flannel, a button-down collar is great. With sharper, more formal clothes, like Ford’s solid navy suit, you want a shirt collar that’s on the stiffer and taller side, with longer points. You don’t want it slipping under your jacket.
Remember, as Ford did above, that no tie doesn’t have to mean no pocket square. In fact, a tie-less look benefits immensely from that extra bit of “I care.”

Q & Answer: Can I Wear A Suit Without A Tie?

John asks: I work for a large multinational company. I see a lot of management, including C-level execs, wearing jackets without ties. I know how PTO feels about ties without jackets, and I agree, but what about the opposite?  When is it OK to wear a jacket but not a tie with your shirt unbuttoned? What’s the point?

You’re right: we generally think the tie-without-coat look is goofy. Makes you look, at best, like a bank teller. But the reverse? A-OK.

Here are some ways to make it work and some things to remember:

  • A suit is the ultimate flattering garment for a man; subtracting the tie doesn’t change that (much).  As you can see on Tom Ford, above, it can be a clean look, especially for evening.
  • A button-down collar shirt goes great with a soft, American-style casual sportcoat or blazer. With or without tie. It’s a classic casual look. Throw a sweater underneath and you’ve gone Full Granduncle.
  • Is a suit with no tie appropriate for business? Well, that depends on the business. It’s certainly a better look than the aforementioned tie-no-coat thing. If the executives are wearing it, it’ll probably fly.
  • It’s easier for this look to become sloppy, so make sure you’re sharp, like Ford, and not a hot mess.
  • Not all shirts are created equal here. As we mentioned: with more casual coats, like tweed, hopsack and flannel, a button-down collar is great. With sharper, more formal clothes, like Ford’s solid navy suit, you want a shirt collar that’s on the stiffer and taller side, with longer points. You don’t want it slipping under your jacket.
  • Remember, as Ford did above, that no tie doesn’t have to mean no pocket square. In fact, a tie-less look benefits immensely from that extra bit of “I care.”
Gentlemen’s Association member David Klueger sent us this unboxing shot of this month’s pocket square. If you haven’t received yours yet, you will soon; they’re rocketing across the world as you read this. If you’d like to get a square in the mail every other month, or if you’d like to order them sent to someone special, you can sign up here.

Gentlemen’s Association member David Klueger sent us this unboxing shot of this month’s pocket square. If you haven’t received yours yet, you will soon; they’re rocketing across the world as you read this. If you’d like to get a square in the mail every other month, or if you’d like to order them sent to someone special, you can sign up here.

Put This On Pocket Squares: Fall/Winter 2013

We’ve just added two dozen beautiful new squares to our shop for fall and winter. There are English silks, vintage wools, Indian cotton and so much more. I think this is the best group of squares we’ve ever released.

View the new collection here… and if you buy two or more pieces from our new collection today, and we’ll give you ten dollars off with the coupon “NEWNEW.”

Put This On Handkerchiefs

A few months ago, one of the most significant shirting shops in New York City closed. It sold only to the trade, and specialized in the finest cottons from England and Italy. They had to sell off their stock - decades of beautiful shirting fabrics.

Luckily, we got in on the action. We had the folks at the shop ship us a box of their finest stuff - all in lengths too short to make into shirts. Perfect, of course, for pocket squares.

The result is a limited-edition handkerchief collection. These pieces are made from the best cotton in the world and are hand-made, with hand-rolled edges, just like our other Put This On pocket squares, but they’re priced so inexpensively that you can use them to blow your nose if you want to. The squares are just $35 each, three for $95, or five for $125… but when they’re gone, they’re gone.

You can see the full selection here in our Etsy shop. Pick up a drawerful!

(Use code THREEHANDKERCHIEFS or FIVEHANDKERCHIEFS for discounts.)