Pocket Squares: Interview Attire?

Infallibleatx asks:

I recently graduated from a masters in accounting program, and was chatting with a member of career services staff. She said that they do not recommend that students wear pocket squares to interviews. I was taken aback, because I thought of them as being a classic part of a nice outfit. She said that they were considered “trendy.” Can you settle this? Are pocket squares more of a modern trend, or something classic? Would you recommend them for an interview?

Pocket squares are classic in the sense that leaving a corner of handkerchief visible in your suit’s breast pocket is something men have been doing for a long time. But they’re also trendy in that they’ve made a strong comeback in the last decade, after going underground in the wake of the 1990s biz-caz revolution (the pocket square was the first thing guillotined).

When interviewing for a job—and this question arises for the most part in relation to white collar jobs—you want to wear clothing that (1) tells the interviewer you are aware of and conform to the social norms of business attire (which do change!), and (2) is unlikely to offend anyone’s sensibilities. A lot of things we (reasonably) consider classic are also (reasonably) considered by many to be ostentatious, and you don’t want your job interview to be a referendum on what you’re wearing. Why is a piece of colorful silk in your pocket not acceptable yet one tied carefully around your neck a-ok? A reasonable question. 

Political candidates walk this line constantly, because they’re interviewing for their jobs every day. They default to something like Nicolas Antongiovanni’s concept of Conservative Business Dress (conservative not meant in the political sense). Dark, single breasted, notch lapel suit; plain white or blue shirt; basic, contrasting necktie. Nothing showy or expensive-looking, which would convey frivolousness and concern with unserious things: no pocket square; for god’s sake no French cuffs; as little pattern as possible; black shoes. Look at the images above from the most recent presidential primary debates, essentially the most visible job interview in the world: Not a pocket square on the stage.

I hate to say this, because most politicians dress terribly, but for white collar job interviews: you want to dress like a politician. You can wild out with sick pocket squares once you’re hired and you get a feel for the office culture.

-Pete

Your Sunday Square: A Kelly Green Abstract
I found the silk for this square in an old Los Angeles fabric shop, hidden under piles and piles of bolts. There were only a couple of yards left. I bought them, and we made them into these beautiful pocket squares. Those squares are now almost gone, and they’re on sale. They’re one of a dozen squares that are currently on sale in our shop, most with discounts over 30%.

Your Sunday Square: A Kelly Green Abstract

I found the silk for this square in an old Los Angeles fabric shop, hidden under piles and piles of bolts. There were only a couple of yards left. I bought them, and we made them into these beautiful pocket squares. Those squares are now almost gone, and they’re on sale. They’re one of a dozen squares that are currently on sale in our shop, most with discounts over 30%.

Your Sunday Square: Floral in Blue
This new Asian-inflected design is from our most recent group of releases. Because we sell directly to you, we’re able to offer our domestically handmade, hand-finished squares in beautiful premium fabrics like this for about a third less than comparable competition.
You can take a look at our 75 currently available designs in our shop right now.

Your Sunday Square: Floral in Blue

This new Asian-inflected design is from our most recent group of releases. Because we sell directly to you, we’re able to offer our domestically handmade, hand-finished squares in beautiful premium fabrics like this for about a third less than comparable competition.

You can take a look at our 75 currently available designs in our shop right now.

Your Sunday Square: Tropical Fish
At first glance, it looks like a plain vanilla silk square. Take a closer look, though, and the tropical fish reveal themselves. Bubbling quietly just below the surface.
From a piece of vintage silk found at an estate sale in Northern California. Available at the Put This On shop.

Your Sunday Square: Tropical Fish

At first glance, it looks like a plain vanilla silk square. Take a closer look, though, and the tropical fish reveal themselves. Bubbling quietly just below the surface.

From a piece of vintage silk found at an estate sale in Northern California. Available at the Put This On shop.

The new PTO pocket squares are arriving in the mailboxes of Gentlemen’s Association members. Here’s a shot from David Klueger. Thanks, David!
This is one of two fabrics that I purchased from a vintage dealer and costume designer here in the Southern California. She’d bartered for them from the stock of a film studio’s costume department many years before, and believed them to have been in stock at the studio since the 30s or so.
Our next round of squares goes out August first. You can sign up now at Memberly. Sign up for a year, and you’ll get a white Irish linen square with your first shipment - and your squares will cost less than $40 each.

The new PTO pocket squares are arriving in the mailboxes of Gentlemen’s Association members. Here’s a shot from David Klueger. Thanks, David!

This is one of two fabrics that I purchased from a vintage dealer and costume designer here in the Southern California. She’d bartered for them from the stock of a film studio’s costume department many years before, and believed them to have been in stock at the studio since the 30s or so.

Our next round of squares goes out August first. You can sign up now at Memberly. Sign up for a year, and you’ll get a white Irish linen square with your first shipment - and your squares will cost less than $40 each.

Your Sunday Square
Every Sunday, we feature a square from our Put This On shop. This one is a gorgeous navy, and it’s perfect for enlivening a summer suit without shouting too loud. The fabric is an exceptionally fine cotton - you’ll have to feel it to believe it. As always, it’s hand-made in our atelier here in the US of A, and as always, by offering it directly to you you’ll save about 40% off the retail price. You can buy yours now.

Your Sunday Square

Every Sunday, we feature a square from our Put This On shop. This one is a gorgeous navy, and it’s perfect for enlivening a summer suit without shouting too loud. The fabric is an exceptionally fine cotton - you’ll have to feel it to believe it. As always, it’s hand-made in our atelier here in the US of A, and as always, by offering it directly to you you’ll save about 40% off the retail price. You can buy yours now.

Your Sunday Square
From the Put This On shop, a paisley number that’s perfect for moving from summer clear through to autumn. Made from vintage Indian silk.

Your Sunday Square

From the Put This On shop, a paisley number that’s perfect for moving from summer clear through to autumn. Made from vintage Indian silk.

Put This On: Summer 2014

We’ve just launched a dozen new pocket squares for the summer. Each comes from a different source, encompassing new and vintage fabric suppliers from all over the world. As always, all are made completely by hand in Los Angeles, and priced about 30% below what you’d pay in a retail shop.

A few of my favorites are pictured above - I particularly like the tone-on-tone aquatic scene - but there are more, as well. This all-white number, for example, is one of the most beautiful (though hard to photograph) pieces of fabric we’ve ever used. Browse our shop and see what the summer’s dragged in.

The Usefulness of Cotton Pocket Squares
Just this summer, I’ve started appreciating how useful having a few cotton pocket squares can be. Most squares you see on the market are made from linen, silk, or wool, and each have their own advantages.
Linen is easily the most versatile, as it can smarten up the look of a suit jacket or sport coat while also remaining discrete. Very helpful these days if you want to look sharp without seeming overly dandy.
Silk squares are a bit more fanciful, but they do better with tweed or flannel jackets since their sheen nicely complements the matte finish of wool cloth. They also go well with wool neckties for the same reason.
Wool squares, on the other hand, are great for sport coats, as they don’t have the sheen of silk, and therefore look a bit more casual. They’re also good for when you feel a sharply folded linen square might look too studied. And like how silk squares pair best with wool or cashmere neckties, wool squares give a nice balance to silk neckwear.
Much like wool squares, then, I’ve found that cotton squares go great with summer sport coats and silk neckties, or for when you’re not wearing any neckwear at all, but are trying to smarten up the look of an odd jacket and open collared shirt. Which is basically what I use mine for these days. 
Pictured above are the four I own. The first is a finely woven white square from Simonnot Godard, which I bought from A Suitable Wardrobe. They’re out of that specific design at the moment, but they have others in both their pocket squares and handkerchief sections. The other three are various printed squares from Drake’s, which I bought from Exquisite Trimmings and No Man Walks Alone. You can also find nice cotton squares at our Etsy shop, Vanda Fine Clothing, Mr. Porter, as well as our advertiser The Hanger Project.

The Usefulness of Cotton Pocket Squares

Just this summer, I’ve started appreciating how useful having a few cotton pocket squares can be. Most squares you see on the market are made from linen, silk, or wool, and each have their own advantages.

  • Linen is easily the most versatile, as it can smarten up the look of a suit jacket or sport coat while also remaining discrete. Very helpful these days if you want to look sharp without seeming overly dandy.
  • Silk squares are a bit more fanciful, but they do better with tweed or flannel jackets since their sheen nicely complements the matte finish of wool cloth. They also go well with wool neckties for the same reason.
  • Wool squares, on the other hand, are great for sport coats, as they don’t have the sheen of silk, and therefore look a bit more casual. They’re also good for when you feel a sharply folded linen square might look too studied. And like how silk squares pair best with wool or cashmere neckties, wool squares give a nice balance to silk neckwear.

Much like wool squares, then, I’ve found that cotton squares go great with summer sport coats and silk neckties, or for when you’re not wearing any neckwear at all, but are trying to smarten up the look of an odd jacket and open collared shirt. Which is basically what I use mine for these days. 

Pictured above are the four I own. The first is a finely woven white square from Simonnot Godard, which I bought from A Suitable Wardrobe. They’re out of that specific design at the moment, but they have others in both their pocket squares and handkerchief sections. The other three are various printed squares from Drake’s, which I bought from Exquisite Trimmings and No Man Walks Alone. You can also find nice cotton squares at our Etsy shop, Vanda Fine Clothing, Mr. Porter, as well as our advertiser The Hanger Project.

Courtesy of Ben from Brooklyn, two years of the Put This On Gentlemen’s Association in one shot. Plus a couple extra from our shop. Thanks, Ben!

Courtesy of Ben from Brooklyn, two years of the Put This On Gentlemen’s Association in one shot. Plus a couple extra from our shop. Thanks, Ben!