Handkerchiefs best

A capsule collection has many uses.

When you travel for long periods, for example, you want a small but versatile collection of clothes that has a large number of permutations, and suits different occasions. And if you commute by bike (as I do) you want similar versatility in the small volume of clothes you can keep in the office.

We looked at this issue for the first time back in October, when I selected five ties that I would keep in such a collection.

A few readers were surprised that it didn’t include a greater variety of ties – a burgundy, for instance. But greater variety usually leads to lower versatility. If a burgundy tie only goes with one of the suits in your office, it should probably be replaced with a navy that goes with three.

Interestingly, this doesn’t apply to handkerchiefs. You can have a broader spread of materials and colours in a capsule collection of hanks, and not sacrifice as much flexibility.

There are a few reasons for this. One is that a white-linen handkerchief goes with so many things, is suitable in so many situations, that it leaves more options elsewhere. Another is that a handkerchief is often an accent, a piece of optional decoration, rather than something that anchors an outfit.

That may mean that a hank is more noticed of course, being a pop of colour. But if you’re ever worried about wearing the same hank again and again, you can just resort to white linen. Or grey linen, as we discuss below.

white simonnot godard handkerchief

1 White linen

The mother of all handkerchiefs. Formal enough for anything remotely smart, yet still casual enough for most odd jackets. Avoid with the most casual of fabrics, such as tweed. And pack one whenever you travel, alongside a navy tie.


simonnot goddard grey handkerchief

2 Grey linen

Small twists on the classic white linen are often useful. I dislike whites with coloured borders however. The colour is small yet it narrows their usefulness considerably. Better a coloured body, and in particular grey, which is a subtle, urbane alternative to white – particularly nice with navy.

wool drakes handkerchief3 Wool or wool/silk – in autumnal colours

A more casual jacket will often suit a wool (or wool/silk) handkerchief. Perhaps more versatile with a bit of navy or grey in the mix, but brown, green and similar autumnal colours will be a nice accent to all casual jackets and tweeds. 


4 Silk – bright, multi-colouredrubinacci silk handkerchief

These Rubinacci hanks are useful because they combine so many different colours. A quick rearrangement and you go from all pink to a mixture of pink, cream, yellow and brown. The sheen of silk means it will stand out more, and is often nice in contrast to a matte tie.

5 Dark silk – simple, geometric patternsilk tom ford handkerchief

I’ve included two silks, one bright and one dark, one simple and one flowery. They should be selected depending on the impact desired, and of course the events of the day. This dark grey, white and black pattern is versatile enough to go with pretty much any navy or grey. 


As with all posts, I have selected these handkerchiefs from my personal collection, built up over several years. They may therefore not be currently available.

I know readers would like recommendations that can be fulfilled at the touch of a link, but that would be more a review of a season’s fashion, rather than a personal taste. Distrust any writer whose favourite things happen to all be available in a single season.

Having said that, the Simonnot-Godard linens are available from Mes Chaussettes Rouges. The others are from Drake’s, Rubinacci and Tom Ford respectively. 

A few people asked about the best handkerchief sizes by the way. 

Hanks tend to be one of two sizes: 12-13 inches or 16-17 inches. Which size you need depends on the size of the pocket it is going in, and the material it is made from.

For a silk square, which can slip down easily inside a pocket, you need to be fairly precise: 12-13 inches is good for a Neapolitan pocket, or any patch pocket; 16-17 inches is good for most welt pockets.

For a wool or linen, the size matters slightly less as the texture of the hank means it is less likely to slip down. However, if you have a big hank in a small pocket, it can distort it and the jacket shape. So best to try and stick to those same sizes as above based on the pocket size.

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Well written. I have three handkerchiefs I use almost all the time; a white linen, a blue Rubinacci in silk and a wool/silk in dark green.


Hi Simon!

What about exchanging the white or grey linen with a cream coloured one? I noticed you have used that colour on a number of occasions.

Best Nico

Adam Jones

When I first read this article I thought cream but then again wouldn’t this be slightly too formal, therefore less useful for a capsule?

Paul W.

This type of post is you at your best, brother.


Ditto Paul W .
Let’s have more of this ….shirts, trousers, suits, cuff links etc


Great choices all. One more addition during the holiday season: white silk hank for evening wear.


Hi Simon

Is there any chance you could set out your whole work capsule wardrobe? I cycle to work and really struggle to have the right things in the office and the right things at home. I end up with the most boring suits in the office (even if they are not that boring they soon become boring when worn every week) and I rarely wear my favourite suits because I don’t have that many occasions outside of the working week. Sometimes I will just take the tube for the opportunity to wear something different! Other times I will be travelling for work on a Sunday evening and find all my sensible business suits at the office! I love cycling, but the style logistics is the one thing I really don’t like about cycling to work. A real first world problem! I guess the other thing i don’t like IS leaving very expensive tailoring in the office.

Any advice gratefully received!


Hi Simon,
As always great work. I love reading your blog and have been an avid follower for a few years now.

As rob, I love cycling and use my bike to get to work. I would highly appreciate some advice on how to combine the two. I usually wear my suit, but am afraid it will get worn out very fast. Also I am considering having a polo coat made which I would probably not be able to wear on the bike (a great pitty). Maybe a further question on the coat what length would be ideal, slightly above knee?

Furthermore do you have any recommendations on transporting clothing, e.g. Gyms wear when taking a bike to work while wearing a suit? I thought of bags in the rack but that would not look elegant at all…

I look forward to your answer and thanks a lot for your work here on permanentstyle!


Nice choice, all of them. I like this capsule selection more than your capsule of ties but I understand your choice for the later too. Are both 1 and 2 above from SG? I’d also like your view on squares from Brunello Cucinelli, particularly how they compare with Fords, as they seem to be roughly in the same price bracket?
Many thanks,


Hi Simon,

Now I love your blog, and it has inspired me to dress better, and has given me that push (though stretching my finances somewhat) out of adolescence into adulthood.

As I would love to read from different perspectives from different places, and since I read French, German, and get by with Spanish and Italian, would you recommend any blogger like yourself who writes in those languages?

Kind regards,


Thanks Simon, I look forward to your article dedicated to commuting.

Just a brief question. Following your recommendations in the overcoat article I plan on getting a double breasted, navy polo coat with patch pockets as my first choice winter coat. what would your recommendation for the length of a polo coat be, slightly above the knee?

I don’t want to push you to releasing too much information prior to your article on commuting, but is it possible to make such a coat “bike friendly” and if so how?

If you don’t want to release too much information prior to the article, I completely understand.

Thanks again for your great work.

Ps: if I may add to blog recommendation in foreign languages: el aristocrata is in Spanish and also has great and interesting articles.


Thanks for your advice, Simon.

I look forward to your future posts!


Hi Simon,
Could you quickly comment on appropriate sizes and how to stop silk hanks slipping down inside the breast pocket.
Many thanks.


Nice article Simon – thank you. I have found useful block colours beyond white and grey to be purple and orange – both go with blue/grey/brown combinations. I note the discussion re. cycling coats etc. A quirky thought perhaps but why not have a long single vent at back that can be buttoned up (in the tradition of equestrian wear) it might look a bit odd but it would mean not sitting on the coat whilst riding plus the tails would be kept out of the way of the chain/wheel/spokes. More capsual articles, as you indicate, would be great.

James Marwood

Simon, I’ve had my eyes out for a good grey pocket square for a while now and not had any success finding one. Do you have suggestions for where to look?

James Marwood

Thanks Simon. I had no look when I popped in to A&S the other day, but I’ll give Mes Chaussettes Rouges a try.

Christopher Lee

James, perhaps you’ve resolved your search for a grey pocket square by now, but as someone who has also struggled to find a good one in that colour–most I’ve seen are cheap-looking silver silks–give Simonot Godard a look. As of this writing, they have a lovely grey slub (dark grey and light grey combined), some cottons with white lines and a silk and cotton checked combination.

P. Lohast

Hi Simon,

i was wondering if you could advise on how to store pocket squares and ties? Does the fabric of a square “break” on the fold if stored folded? With respect to ties i’m conflicted between

1) Keeping them in their boxes. Seems the appropriate choice, but i need to fold them 3 or 4 times and when taking out the folds are visible. Also it’s a hassle to go through the boxes.

2) Roll them up. Again, somewhere picked this up but i might damage the fabric.

3) Use some sort of a hanger. This has the downside of giving a single but worse fold, likely because of the weight of the tie itself.

4) Just throwing them into a some box, keeping them open while taking care the tip does not fold. This feels very untidy though.

As a disclaimer i feel fully aware of the “first world” nature of this problem but trust that this blog is a safe place and would appreciate your advise.

Jamie McP

Quite a timely post for me as I’ve gone back to commuting by bike after 3 years of being able to walk to work. I work in a very traditional industry where formal is the norm.

I have just been putting together a capsule wardrobe for the office. When just in the office I don’t need to be super formal, but if I am meeting clients, it’s definitely suited and booted. Then there is dress down Friday as well. In reality I’m normally only in 3-4 days a week as the other time is spent out at meetings etc. My office wardrobe consists of

Bespoke Peter Johnson blue flannel pinstripe suite
Blue Thom Sweeny RTW formal cotton trousers
Brown herringbone tweed jacket from Crew
Blue Wool Oliver Sweeny trousers
Green spotted Drakes silk tie
Brown spotted PJ tie
Grey knitted Hardy Aimous tie
Blue spotted knitted tie
Black and white silk club tie
2 pairs of Crocket and Jones Black oxfords
Brown suede chukka boots
Blue Hentshman trench coat
A selection of hanks

Most of the times I need to be formal I probably won’t be cycling due to other reasons (not in the office, coming home late), so most of my suits are kept at home. I could provably do with a pair of brown Oxfords for the office. I have a couple of pairs, both made by G&G and for some reason I am a bit hesitant to keep them in the office. I also would like a better coat for the office, especially for the winter.

At the moment I bring a shirt and jumper with me on the bike, but I’m looking for a decent laundry service near by.

I suppose I run a two tier wardrobe


Not sure if this is the right forum, however I feel it’s appropriate to mention if a retailer goes above and beyond and I feel Mes Chaussettes Rouges did so with my last order. An item I ordered had been temporarily out of stock and not only was I immediately informed by personal email, but when they shipped a few days later (I had opted to wait) they actually attached a handwritten note with the order apologising again. From the way this was handled and especially the tone of the interaction it appears that you actually deal with people here that seem to genuinely care about their customers. This is great because at first I had a bit of worries ordering from a small shop I never tried before — unwarranted.



What sort of hank do you typically wear with odd jackets made of a rough fabric (e.g., herringbone)? I’ve seen heavier wool hanks work well. What about a nice smooth silk hank to contrast with herringbone?


Wouldn’t white linen be a bit too formal to pair with herringbone or something of comparable roughness?

Sunny Uppal

Hello Mr Crompton, I looked and looked and looked, but I can’t seem to find any grey linen pocket square. Any vendors you recommend. I’ve gone through all the usual haberdasheries and google is really no help. Thanks.

Sunny Uppal

I appreciate the responses. I believe Anderson & Sheppard and Budd do stock grey linens, just not at the moment. Luckily, Simonnot Godard stocks cotton/linen blends in grey and I was able to order one!

John Winstanley


What material would you suggest for a white handkerchief for a wedding?

For reference, I will be wearing an Azure blue silk tie.

Many thanks,



Dear Simon,
First of all I would like to thank you for all the amazing insightful content on your website. I have learned so much about cloths, formality scales and styling from Permanent Style.
Following this article I have been searching for a plain grey linen pocket square, but I cannot find it on any of the traditional web shops for these kind of items I know. You’ve suggested Anderson & Sheppard & Mes Chaussettes Rouges in an earlier comment, but they don’t sell them either at the moment. Do you know any other places where to look?

S. Knot

While I don’t see the point in handkerchiefs sticking out of pockets, I do
occasionally need to USE a handkerchief, and I find that, usually,
handkerchiefs that are sold for this purpose — for the purpose of being used
— are either white or has some boring pattern and are invariably too large (I
find 25 x 25 cm are enough). Any recommendation?

S. Knot

Correction: handkerchiefs > handkerchiefs’


Hey Simon, do you leave the tags on your handkerchiefs?


Simon, how well would a navy square with whit dots work for #5?


Agreed. Never liked large scale dots. Thought something more like a Churchill dot (not sure it’s called that in the UK).


And how about gray lightweight chambray instead of linen? I have a shirt of such material that I wore when my daughter was born and no longer fits. Always thought it would make a lovely pocket square – if I send it to someone who’d do hand-rolled edges


Simon, except for Drakes silk/wool squares seem hard to come across. Any other recommendations? Could this be swapped out for ancient madder? Those are a little easier to come across. I have a silk/wool pin dot that I like because it has less slip than silk – stays in place better without spilling out of the pocket. I wonder if a madder square’s chalky feel would have the same effect?