Be careful with adding a handkerchief to your outfit. Elegance should stand out on its own.
I see a lot more men today wearing pocket handkerchiefs with their jackets. And as much as I like being different to the rest, this is certainly a good thing. Whether a plain, white linen square or a coloured silk puff, handkerchiefs are a great source of expression for men. The opportunities for decorating ourselves with colour are few; rarer still are those that involve bright hues or flighty silk.
However, a handkerchief is still unusual and as such makes a bold statement in a man. It says ‘I think and care about my clothes. I’m not afraid to attract attention and scrutiny.’
Most other aspects of fine clothing are subtler. The waisting of a jacket, the hang of a tie or the slim welt of a bespoke shoe are all things you would notice – but not immediately, not obviously. A handkerchief shouts in contrast: because it is an additional item, like a boutonniere, that most men wouldn’t normally wear; because it is often so bright, whether coloured or not.
So the danger is that a clothing novice wears a pocket handkerchief to show he is interested in clothes, but the rest of his outfit betrays naivety. I saw a young man wearing one yesterday but his tie ended at his belly button, his jacket was undone and his shoes were far too pale for his suit. In that set-up the handkerchief only draws attention to the cheapness or ill-fitting nature of the other items one wears.
I do hope that none of this sounds arrogant or puts off young men from trying out handkerchiefs. But as with the comments made by readers on my recent post regarding matching socks and accessories, this is experimentation for the experienced gentleman. For those that have already mastered the basics.
Elegance is still essentially about simplicity. Make sure you match your socks to your trousers to start with. Then experiment later, keeping enough simplicity elsewhere in the outfit to retain balance. With handkerchiefs, only add one to an outfit when you are confident in everything else. Make it a latter stage in your education.
To finish on a positive note, a comment made to me by Patrick Grant at Norton & Sons: “More people are wearing handkerchiefs these days. Almost more than are wearing ties, which is really funny.
“I’m glad they are, because a man needs a little bit of colour. If I remove my handkerchief, what I am wearing automatically becomes less interesting. If I remove the tie as well, it becomes very dull. It’s something anyone could put together.”