Pocket squares as a fashion accessory for formal attire have only been around since the beginning of the 20th century. Especially popular in the 1920s, men used to wear a pocket square in combination with a suit, a vest, and the era’s typical fedora hat.
The origins of the pocket square:
Initially pocket squares came from the linen handkerchiefs used for personal hygiene. Handkerchiefs have been used for over 600 years. It is said that the handkerchief was invented by Richard II of England (1367-1400) “as a little piece of cloth for the lord king to wide and clean his nose”. Initially only the upper class adopted the use of a linen hankerchief, but by the 17th century the handkerchief was as quite common among all classes throughout western Europe.
Pocket Squares as a fashion accessory:
Initially handkerchiefs were placed in the trousers’ pockets since it was seen as un-clean to show a “used” handerchief in the visible breast pocket of a man’s jacket. As 2 piece suits came into fashion in the 19th century, many men started to place their clean pocket square into the breast pocket of their jacket to protect it from dirt and other objects, such as coins, in their trousers’ pockets. After use the pocket square would move from the breast pocket to the trousers’ pockets.
The look of the pocket square in the breast pocket became more popular, especially after specific folding techinques came into use. By the 1920s the pocket square had become more of a fashion accessory than having any other purpose. Often times men had a poacket square in their breast pocket, and another handerchief in their trousers meant for wiping their hands or cleaning their nose.
Later on, during the 40s and 50s the linen handkerchiefs were viewed us unhygenic. The kleenex company, founded in 1924, was the first company to make disposable handkerchiefs. As a result, the linen handkershief was replaced, and only used as a fashion accessory in form of a pocket square. Pocket squares are still today a very fashionable piece of accessory for any formal or even business attire.
Pocket Squares and Handkerchief history: How did the pocket square become a fashion accessory for men.