In menswear you can find few things that are as effective and time efficient as a pocket square when it comes upgrading an average outfit. Within 10 seconds you can make your outfit a lot more elegant, if you know how to fold a pocket square and if you combine it well with the rest of your outfit.
Therefore, in this guide, we’ll show you how to wear them, how to combine them, and how to match them with your shirt, and your tie, and your jacket so you look dapper.
Accessories = The Dapper Difference
Accessories are not just an add-on to your outfit, they actually can make it or break it. To achieve something that’s pleasing and flattering, you need to create a harmonious look.
Patterned Tie with Solid Pocket Square
Look at my combination above. It’s a navy jacket paired with a pastel and blue striped shirt, those colors are picked up by the tie, blue and yellow, orange and red, and then complemented by a pocket square that is likewise yellow.
Solid Tie with Patterned Pocket Square
The left combination on the other hand has an orange knit tie, a gray jacket, a pastel yellow or orange shirt, and then paired with a patterned pocket square that does not have the exact color tone but it picks it up somewhere in between and it creates a harmonious overall experience.
When you put an outfit together, you have to consider different degrees of formality. You have to look at the texture of your cloth; for example here, we have a pinpoint jacket, we have a knit tie, we have a bold pocket square in silk. They’re all different so you also have to consider the different color palettes that you combine into your outfit.
Now, the easiest way to combine an outfit that looks great is to start with the suit or the jacket because that dictates where you go. If you have a charcoal suit in worsted flannel, it’s a more formal outfit. If you go with something in a brown glen check, it’s a more casual outfit.
Once you have that down, choose a shirt. It’s easiest to choose either a solid white, off-white, or light blue shirt because then you can really go wild with the different ties you wear, pocket squares, and maybe a boutonniere if you want or cuff links.
As the third item, you want to choose the tie because that defines what color accents you set and as a fourth, choose the pocket square which complements the tie. Last but not the least, you can opt for a boutonniere or the cuff links.
When you’re starting out, keep the ground rules in mind because they help you to create better, more dashing outfits. You don’t want to incorporate more than three different patterns in your outfit otherwise, it easily gets overwhelmed. Of course, there are very dapper men who can combine four or even five patterns in one outfit but that requires a lot of experience, skill, and a good eye. When you’re just starting out, it’s over the top and chances are it looks bad and very odd.
The Suit Pattern Matters
For example, imagine if you have this tie which is a shantung silk tie paired with a pocket square. It’s a good combination with the suit I’m wearing but for the Glen plaid one because of pattern clashing. There is just too much going on.
Keep Accessories Simple & Plain When Wearing Bold Shirts
The same is true when you decide to go with a bold shirt such as this green and white striped one or something in orange. If you do that, try to stay in the same color palette roughly or go with something darker. For example, with a green and white striped shirt, a dark solid navy tie or a knit tie is best. With the orange striped shirt, you can go with an orange knit tie but something solid.
Wear Patterned Pocket Squares With Solid Suits
On the other hand, if you have a navy solid jacket or navy gray jacket, something with a little pin point pattern, you can really be much bolder with your pocket square and with your tie. That is where we suggest the 10 clothing items every man must have. You should invest in a dark suit and in items that you can pair with lots of accessories because accessories are a lot less expensive and you create a lot more different looks.
To show you how easy it is to change a pocket square in a suit like this, I’m just exchanging my silk yellow pocket square for a pale yellow cotton pocket square. It’s almost the same color, it’s slightly different but it has a tip so a different fold makes for a different outfit. Let’s look at this buff madder silk pocket square which I can use as well and since I have a solid jacket on and the color tone is picked up by the tie, I can exchange a lot of things and it always looks great but distinctly different.
Why Should You Invest In A Pocket Square?
After all, it doesn’t serve any functional purpose other than making you look great. As you just saw, the pocket square can really give your entire outfit a different look and feel and it’s just a little piece of fabric that you can fold in a few seconds and it can take an otherwise average outfit and make it look awesome. To learn different pocket square folds, please check out this video.
On top of that, a pocket square has the ability to tie entire outfits together that otherwise may not work really well. Usually a pocket square achieves that effect by having a number of different colors that pick up one in the outfit and then tie it together in an elegant manner.
You’ll find that pocket squares are always printed and not jacquard woven because it just gives a better look and you don’t want an extra texture and it’s also less likely that you pull threads with your fingernails. You can also add a lot of different colors to a pocket square and it helps to create a harmonious outfit with a lot of different ties.
- A good pocket square will always make you look polished and complete and if you want to show the edges of your square, make sure it has hand rolled edges because it’s a true hallmark of a gentleman who knows how to dress elegantly.
- Avoid machine stitched or hem pocket squares because they’re not elegant. Also, it’s important to have the right size of your pocket square and depending on the fabric and the thickness of it, different sizes work best.
- You always want to avoid having a pocket square that is so small that it just disappears in your pocket because it can’t stay up.
- It’s very important to never match a pocket square exactly to your tie because it shows that you really don’t have any sense of style or elegance and that you lack the confidence to put together a well coordinating harmonious outfit.
- I know there are lots of sets out there you can buy but I suggest you stay clear of them and rather invest in a pocket square that you can combine in different ways. If a matching pocket square is all you have, I suggest not to wear one at all. Maybe go with a boutonniere instead because it just looks tacky otherwise. The first pocket square you should invest in is a plain white solid linen pocket square.
You can also get a pocket square with color contrast edges such as here in pale green or in different colors such as red or blue. The advantage is you can either wear them with the color or you just fold them so you can’t see the color; that way you can get two pocket squares in one. The white linen pocket square is a gentleman’s wardrobe staple because it works with any kind of white shirt, you can wear it with a tuxedo, you can wear it to an interview, to a wedding, to a funeral, you name it. It’s a formal look that goes with everything and it’s simply the first one you should have because it goes with so many outfits.
Do not wear it with a light blue shirt because the color is too close and it simply doesn’t work out. I also suggest not to wear it with a tweed jacket because it’s too casual and white is just too formal for that.
I would stay clear of silk pocket squares because oftentimes they are very thin silk ones that disappear in your pocket and the linen has a crisp look that is very elegant.
Now, when you coordinate colors between your pocket square and your ties; let’s say you have fifty ties and fifty pocket squares, that’s a whopping 2500 outfit combinations. Of course, we can’t show you all 2500 combinations however, there are a few basic principles that you can apply in your every day outfit combination process.
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF POCKET SQUARE MATCHING
- To start, it’s easiest to go with solid neck tie and a pattern pocket square or do the other way around and you go with a patterned tie and a solid pocket square. The advantage of this combination is that you can pair the solid tie with a number of different pocket squares. For example, this one has many different colors and although none of them is the exact orange of the tie, it creates a harmonious look because it just picks up that color.
- If we choose a different pocket square with a crown fold, this is our wool challis polka dot square, you can see again that the orange is not exact but because of the green in it, it just works well overall. Orange is a really favorite color of mine for fall/winter and spring outfits because it’s so versatile.
- If we use this other pocket square which is a silk wool blend, you can first of all create a look with purple, blue, and green that works really well but you can also take the pocket square and maybe just show a different part of it so you just get more orange for example, with just a light pattern. Overall, it’s very easy to combine your pocket squares in that way.
- You can also choose to go with something contrasting or a complementary contrast that just gives a different look to the outfit but it’s still harmonious. For example here, take this pocket square with a medallion, it’s a silk wool with a beautiful blue, I pop it in there and obviously, there’s no real orange but there’s some traces and so it works well together.
- If both your tie and your pocket square have patterns, you should avoid going with patterns in a similar size.
Voila! That’s how you combine pocket squares and ties with patterns so make sure to go with different sizes in your tie patterns and your pocket square patterns so it all looks well put together. Also bear in mind that colors too close but not the same will clash and so it helps to have pocket squares in patterns with many different colors rather than a solid color. That being said of course, you can have sometimes a solid pocket square that works really well with a patterned tie because it picks up on one of the colors and it just creates a really good dapper look.
Furthermore, keep in mind the way you fold a pocket square can have a huge impact on the way it looks. For example, this medallion pocket square, you can have just the medallion showing like so, or you can have just the tip show or you can have something in between which shows part of the medallion and part of the red. Obviously it’s a same pocket square but you can create three different looks with it.
Once you’ve mastered pocket square combinations that pick up on the color, you can also take the next step and go for pocket squares that don’t have any color in common. For example, this pocket square here has beige tones, yellow tones, green tones, purples, which are not present at the tie yet they go well together because they’re both not extreme colors and warm colors. For example, if I would have chosen a bright green or bright blue, it would have clashed. In that case, that madder silk tie goes well with a wool challis color palette and it’s also more subdued.
Obviously, pairing pocket squares in that way is a lot more difficult but when you keep in mind that if you have a bold color to go with other bold colors and if you have subdued colors to go with other subdued colors, you may yield some very interesting outfit combinations. Of course, not every time will be a winning combination but you have to make mistakes to improve your outfits over time, there’s no way around that.
At the end of the day, you have to be comfortable in your skin and comfortable with your outfit and once you’re confident with your choice, it will show and your overall look will be even better than if you are unsure about the combination you chose.
As I said before, first start with your jacket and your shirt and then with your ties. So if you don’t have any ties yet in your wardrobe, I suggest you start with the 12 essential ties every man should have and once you have a few that you like, you can buy pocket squares that go with them based on the things we discussed in this video.