How to: Fold a Pocket Square

So you've snagged your new go-to blazer, upgrading your the 13-year-old-at-his-first-school-dance look of solo white shirt and black dress pants. Congratulations! You're now hovering at the upper style echelon that the big boys call classiness. Now, this may be a perfectly acceptable sartorial level to rest, one where you can command all the professional respect you'd ever need. But you're not satisfied with simply acceptable, right? Of course not! You want to pursue panache, you want to exude aplomb, you want to chase other fancy-pants dictionary words.

My friend, you're in need of a pocket square.

You know, the dandy cousin of the handkerchief that's there to just look cool and wouldn't dare catch a snot drop. Clothing is a nonverbal speech bubble, and conscious choices display confidence; the pocket square elevates the wearer another notch into the realm of “I know what I'm doing,” provides variety for a frequently-worn outfit, and radiates the warmth of self-expression.

Read on for the ManMade primer on choosing your pocket square, then learn how to fold a pocket square and starting off with three basic pocket square folds!

how to fold a pocket square

Pocket Square Guidelines

Before we get into how to fold a pocket square, let's go over a few tips to help you pick your a pocket square and wear it well.

1. Size

There's no such thing as The International Association of Dapper Fellows Pocketbook of Pocket Square Standards, so pocket squares come in a variety of sizes. Don't sweat it too much—any standard sized handkerchief will work fine. You'll know when your material is too large when it feels like you've stuffed a tarp in your coat's breast pocket.

2. Materials

Standard materials are linen, cotton, and silk. This is where personal preference begins to kick in. You can get nice, crisp fold lines with the stiffer fabrics of linen and cotton, especially when you choose a square with a contrasting embroidered edge. Silk, on the other hand, wants to flow and its sheen catches light, which gives a touch of elegance.

how to fold a pocket square

3. Colors and Patterns

This aspect of pocket squares is 100% subjective. (Again, the I.A.D.F.P. isn't a real governing body.) If you're totally unsure of what to do, white is never a bad choice, and if you're wearing a tuxedo, it's the only choice. Solids are good; try navy, red, or tan. Standard textile patterns are nice: polka dots, tartan, gingham, hound's tooth. Or you could just go for broke and get one with prints of famous paintings.

One word of caution: don't perfectly match your tie and pocket square. It's cheesy and screams “rental,” which is the last thing you want if you're trying to broadcast purposefulness. If you'd like to coordinate, pick a main color for your pocket square that repeats as a minor color in your tie.

4. General Pointers

• Don't sweat perfection. Like bow ties, they actually need to be slightly askew or they won't look like someone actually folded them by hand.

• Don't be afraid to show several inches of your pocket square. If you're new to the world of filling your coat's breast pocket, it'll probably feel weird at first.

• Your pocket square should be long enough to reach the bottom of the pocket. The last thing you need to focus on when you're out enjoying yourself is to constantly look down to adjust it.

• If you're an allergy sufferer, resist the urge to sneeze into it. Remember: one for show, one for blow—carry a separate handkerchief.

Three Classic Pocket Square Folds

There are hundreds of variations on the pocket square, but if you're just getting started, there's no need to get fancy quite yet. Check out these three classics—they each take less than thirty seconds and work in both formal and casual occasions.

1. How to Fold a Pocket Square: The Classic Fold

how to fold a pocket square

As the name suggests, the classic fold is simple, not too flashy, understated, and timeless.

How to do the Classic Fold:

1. Fold in half.

2. Fold in half again, crosswise.

3. Fold once more, parallel to your second fold. 

4. Place in pocket with edges showing.

how to fold a pocket square

how to fold a pocket square

how to fold a pocket square

2. How to Fold a Pocket Square: The Presidential Fold

how to fold a pocket square

This is a variation on the classic fold, with no seams showing for an even cleaner look. This one generally gets tucked down further into your pocket to create a thin band of color.

How to do the Presidential Fold:

1. Fold in half.

2. Fold in half again, crosswise.

3. Fold in half, parallel to the second fold.

4. Fold in half once more, crosswise just below the midpoint.

5. Tuck the pocket square into your pocket with the fold pointing up.

how to fold a pocket square

how to fold a pocket square

3. How to Fold a Pocket Square: The Puff Fold

how to fold a pocket square

This is a very traditional pocket square folding method, best performed with a larger silk pocket square.

How to do the Puff Fold:

1. Lay the square flat.

2. Point the fingers of one hand upward in the center of the square to create a puff.

3. Grasp the puff you created with your other hand, dropping your pointed fingers out.

4. Holding the puff with one hand, twist the bottom edges of the square tightly.

5. Place the edges down into your pocket. Adjust the puff to your liking.

how to fold a pocket square

how to fold a pocket square

how to fold a pocket square

And lastly, the best place to buy pocket squares:

With over 800 individual pocket squares at great prices, The Tie Bar is the best resource, hands down. No more excuses.