A pocket square is undoubtedly one of the most versatile accessories in menswear. It’s able to effortlessly alter the formality of an outfit, provide unique color and texture, and also give that finishing touch, completing an outfit. Today, we’re sharing nine essential pocket squares that we feel belong in every gentleman’s collection.
Having hundreds of options, sorting through what you should have in your wardrobe can be daunting. There are, however, pocket squares that we believe can form the foundation of your wardrobe. Perhaps one day, you might even rival Raphael’s extensive collection!
History of the Pocket Square
First, though, let’s just briefly touch on some history here; talking about the evolution of the pocket square as we know it today.
The first pocket squares began as strips of cloth dipped in fragrance, which were carried by the aristocrats of antiquity. From the Middle Ages through to the early modern period, expensive pocket squares made from luxury materials began to differentiate themselves from pocket handkerchiefs. That one is way too nice to blow my nose with. And with the rise of the modern suit, the pocket square began to be carried in the exterior breast pocket of the jacket, where it has happily remained ever since.
If you’d like more detailed information on the history of pocket squares, you can consult our definitive guide to the white pocket square.
Pocket Square Pointers
Returning to today’s topic, though, let’s discuss what you should put in your pocket. However, before we get to the nine essential choices, we’ve got a few overall pocket square pointers to share with you.
1. Size Matters
Jumping into these pointers then, we’ll start with number one: size matters. What we mean by this is that you’ll want to ensure that your pocket square is properly sized based on its material. Light or slick fabrics like cotton and silk are going to more easily slide down inside of your pocket, whereas coarser weaves and fibers like those made from wool are going to protrude more out of your pocket. Generally, then, you’ll want any pocket square that’s made from a thicker fabric to be of a smaller size and any pocket square that’s made of a thinner fabric to be of a larger size.
2. Take it to the Edge
Pointer number two: take it to the edge. As a quality consideration for all pocket squares, hand-rolled edges – as opposed to those that are machined – are going to offer you, as the wearer, a more unique appearance that’s less uniform overall, mitered edges that create and hold folds more easily and with a less bulky appearance, and greater durability as the edges are less likely to come unraveled. You can learn more in our post on pocket square construction.
3. Emphasize Elevation
Pointer number three: emphasize elevation. Pocket squares are a great way to dress up a look, especially if you happen to be wearing a jacket without neckwear. They add visual interest and you can choose a scintillating pop or understated elegance. All it takes is the simple addition of a pocket square.
4. Mold with a Fold
How a pocket square is folded also greatly influences its appearance. You can emphasize soft rolls or elegant points, control how much a pattern is displayed, and generally influence formality and mood.
Folds are particularly important with simple weave or solid color pocket squares like white pocket squares. Because the square is plain, the details are made in the way that it’s folded.
How to Fold a Pocket Square – My Top 8 Folds for Gentlemen
5. Keep it Quality
Since most of a pocket square’s value and appeal comes from it being a piece of fabric, it pays to invest in quality fabric. Choose examples made in reputable mills with quality dyes and go for natural fibers avoiding synthetics, unless, of course, you want to look like a magician endlessly pulling overly shiny scarves from nowhere.
9 Essential Pocket Squares for Men
1. White Linen Pocket Square
Alright, now that we’ve got our pointers squared away, let’s get into our nine essentials. Of course, we’ll start with the basics and perhaps the most classic option of all: the white linen pocket square.
In addition to serving as an excellent neutral accessory for bolder shirts, suits, and ties. The white pocket square is a mainstay of formal dress codes featuring in Black Tie, Morning Dress, and White Tie. With formal wear in particular, the devil really is in the details and the white pocket square is a detail you can certainly get right.
In our experience, a white pocket square in linen is going to serve you best as it’s extremely versatile with an elegant appearance that is soft to the touch, but still sturdy enough to hold folds well.
White Pocket Squares: The Definitive Guide for Men
Silk is also a very common material for white pocket squares with a unique sheen and a somewhat vintage appeal. But, it can look overly formal in some situations and it doesn’t hold all kinds of folds well. So, if you’re wearing a white, silk pocket square, you should probably go with something less structured like a puff fold.
Ultimately here, though, your final decision on a white pocket square should be based on your own needs and modes of dress.
For our next eight selections, we’re going to be fairly specific with the colors and patterns that we mention upfront. But, remember, of course, that these are just examples that we’ve chosen in order to provide detailed explanations, and you can always look for approximations or alternatives.
2. Blue Solid-colored Pocket Square
Our number two pick is a blue, solid-colored pocket square with contrast edge stitching. If the white pocket square finds its elegance in simplicity, this pocket square finds its elegance in the unexpected; contrasting its body color with its border color. And we’re borderline obsessed with the pairing of yellow and blue in this Fort Belvedere example.
Because blue is one of the most common colors in menswear and yellow is definitely less common, you can bring unexpected color into your ensembles without being too jarring. The more quotidian body color will easily pair with many different outfit options, and the border color will provide a pop of visual interest.
The beauty of a pocket square with a border or a contrasting edge is that you’re essentially getting two for one as you can show more or less of the body and border based upon the fold that you use. Other color pairings you could consider include brown and blue, olive and maroon, purple and white, and pink and white among others.
We’re again going to suggest linen as the best choice for fabric here because it holds many folds very well and because the natural texture of linen provides pop to solid colored squares. But, blends could also be a good choice here and silk will add vibrancy and luster.
3. Burgundy Polkadot Pocket Square
Our third essential pick today is a burgundy, polka dot pocket square. Polka dots first came to prominence in the 19th century and, while their popularity has waxed and waned, we consider them mainstays of classic menswear that are one of the easiest ways to provide a pop of color into your outfit. And because of their simple but small repeating pattern, polka dots will never overload your outfit with too much visual interest.
To capture the full potential of the pattern, we would suggest pairing burgundy, a timeless menswear color, with a stimulating pop of yellow. But, the inherent versatility here will also allow you to wear things like shades of the same color, complementary colors, and contrasting colors without worrying that anything is going to overwhelm your outfit. After all, these simple polka dots will look just as good with a uniquely woven jacket as with one that is plain and simple.
Another plus here is that polka dot patterns can work well with basically any fabric from which pocket squares are made. To ensure that all of the aspects of your ensemble are working together harmoniously though, you can find out how to effortlessly combine your pocket squares with your shirts, ties, and suits in a another guide.
How To Combine a Pocket Square with a Tie, Suit & Shirt
4. Green Paisley Pocket Square
Though the pattern is Indian in origin, paisley derives its name from the mills where it was commonly produced in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. And, of course, this unique teardrop pattern is one of the most commonly seen in menswear.
Paisley patterns afford many opportunities for unique colors in subtle variations. And for our first patterned pick today, we’re going for one that relies on a subtle overall color palette so that the paisley pattern itself really shines through.
Green is a color that will fit seamlessly into most wardrobes because it pairs well with both warm and cool colors. Note how pleasing the shade of green is here with both the blues in the pocket square as well as the reds and yellows. At the same time though, green isn’t extremely common so it creates visual interest while also being versatile.
This pocket square will go well with suits in similar colors if you want a more uniform appearance or with a bolder look that needs to be anchored by a sedate, but still animated pocket square, such as this blue example that functions similarly to the green one. For additional color choices, you could consider subtle earth tones as well as rich jewel tones. And paisleys are also especially well suited to breaking up tone-on-tone pocket squares.
Woolens, silks, and blends of the two are going to be the best choices here as they hold colors well and don’t make designs look blurred. And madder silk is an especially good option for rich but subtle colors and neat but intricate designs.
5. Ochre Geometric Pocket Square
To mix things up, more exuberantly contrasting colors are going to put a zing into your outfit, and we’re big fans of seeing a zing like this contrasted with a more orderly pattern.
Ochre is a timeless shade that especially complements classic outfits as it has the bright vibrancy of yellow while also being toned down enough not to be distracting and to pair well with other classic colors. Meanwhile, the geometric design is just varied enough to be visually interesting, but also orderly enough to tone down the look of the vibrant color.
In this example, the bold ochre is rendered more manageable by the sedate blues and reds, but also note the more true yellow on the border of the square. The mellowing effect of repeating geometric patterns can also be seen in these other boldly colored examples like vibrant merlot and green or the pop from the browns and oranges against the violet and green here. Keep in mind though that even relatively simple geometric patterns like a basket weave can be much bolder depending on the vibrancy of the color like the bright-colored offerings from Hermes, for example.
When paired with a more sedate jacket these high-contrast pocket squares – like the example from Fort Belvedere we’re showcasing today – will still work well without appearing jarring because of the mass of the jacket tones down the color overall. However, it will also work well if you prefer a more flamboyant, dandified look as the patterns in the pocket square are going to harmonize well with those in the jacket without being too distracting. So, you definitely won’t need to “solve for x” to figure out just why geometric pocket squares are so great.
And on a general note here, our tips for picks numbers 4 and 5 are somewhat interchangeable. In other words, the advice we provided for low-contrast, geometric patterns can also be applied to low-contrast paisley patterns, and the same goes for high-contrast paisleys and geometrics.
Just bear in mind that because paisleys are innately bolder, brighter colors are going to have a greater effect here, especially if they’re on a large paisley pattern.
6. Burnt Orange Silk-Wool, Paisley Motif Pocket Square
At number six today is a burnt orange, silk-wool, paisley motif pocket square. Most popular pocket square colors, patterns, and materials are going to work year-round. But, if you really want to savor the seasons, you could consider a specialty fall-winter pocket square with seasonally appropriate colors and materials.
We believe that orange is a criminally-underutilized color in menswear and autumn is an excellent time to try incorporating more of it into your wardrobe. After all, you can just look to the falling leaves for inspiration. And this burnt orange example from Fort Belvedere captures the vibrancy of orange, but in a more muted shade that won’t be overwhelming.
To maximize versatility and to also inject as much color as possible, the paisley motif here also allows for the introduction of other colors that are still appropriate for fall like violet, green, and yellow. Browns, reds, and sedate blues can also be good options here.
A seasonal fabric is going to be most practical for the cooler months, and silk-wool blends are going to be especially versatile due to their more formal texture that also still looks inviting and warm. And for more on fall-winter pocket squares specifically, you can check out our dedicated guide on the subject.
Pocket Squares for Fall & Winter: Men’s Accessories for Autumn
7. Copper Red and Blue Art Deco Scarab Graphic Design Pocket Square
You might feel intimidated at first by a graphic pocket square, but it’s not that kind of “graphic.” We simply mean “graphic” as in a printed image. These can be intimidating because you might think the design is too bold or will look awkward when it’s folded up into your pocket.
Graphic pocket square designs can vary widely so, for maximum versatility, we would recommend that you opt for something that is unique enough to catch the eye, but not so complex that it’s going to be distracting. And as you might have expected, Fort Belvedere’s art deco, Egyptian scarab design definitely fits the bill here.
It consists mostly of a repeating pattern that can be styled similarly to other pocket squares we’ve already discussed today; with a repeating scarab motif evocative of the Egyptian revival of the early-20th century that coincided with the Golden Age of menswear.
The subtle copper, red, and blue color pairing provides a good base that really allows for the black and gold-winged scarab to pop. And because the scarab graphic isn’t oversized, it offers a good deal more versatility than many other graphic pocket squares. And, again, depending on how you fold it, its overall appearance can also change greatly.
And, as far as fabrics are concerned, silks and blends containing silk are going to be your best bet here because they hold dyes and intricate patterns very well.
8. Dark Blue Textured Linen Pocket Square
Most of the pocket squares we’ve covered today have relied on color and pattern for visual distinction. So, now, let’s turn to an example that uses texture.
Texture creates visual interest in a subtle and nuanced way that can be especially good for modern and contemporary styling. And an open-weave linen provides a tessellated texture that is immediately striking without being obtrusive. To keep attention on the unique texture then, blue is a great choice here.
As we mentioned before, it’s highly versatile, but it will showcase the texture in a good way. White can also function in this foundational role, and red and yellow could also provide more of a pop if so desired. And because they do go so well with contemporary styling, textured pocket squares are a great way to effortlessly elevate a tile-less look with minimalist elegance.
9. Reversible Pocket Square
Rounding out our list of essentials today then is our number nine pick: the reversible pocket square. As you’ve hopefully seen by now, when it comes to pocket squares, you can almost be spoiled with the wealth of choices that are out there.
So, what happens if you just can’t choose? Well, luckily, you won’t have to with a reversible square. As the name implies, these pocket squares feature one design on one side and another on the other; literally giving you two pocket squares for the price of one.
For maximum versatility, we would again suggest that you opt for a foundational color like blue. And you can leverage the unique versatility of the reversible pocket square by selecting a model with two very distinct designs like our Fort Belvedere models that feature a pheasant motif on one side and a paisley on the other.
Of course, these types of squares can be worn with just one side showing – using the conventions we discussed earlier – or you could use a more advanced fold to show off both sides at the same time.
And if you’d like to create even more visual interest, you can, of course, go with an even bolder color like yellow. Once again, silks and silk blends are going to work best here to preserve the color and the intricacy of the design. Whichever you choose, we suspect that you’re never going to reverse your decision when it comes to reversible pocket squares.
Once you add any or all of our nine selections to your own wardrobe and begin wearing them, we think you’ll agree that it’s hip to be square.
Are there any other pocket squares that you would add to our list of essentials? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below!
Today, wearing one of our essential pocket squares; specifically, this was pick number five. It’s in a color that we’re calling “antique gold ochre” and it’s a silk-wool blend that features printed geometric medallions in beige, red, and blue with a contrasting edge in cream. Accordingly, I’ve folded it into a pointed puff fold to show off the contrasting edge as well as the medallions and the body color.
The tones of the pocket square are also echoed elsewhere in my outfit, including in my caramel and dark burgundy two-toned, shadow-striped socks from Fort Belvedere and my buttercup boutonniere also from Fort Belvedere.
Meanwhile, my ascot is in a buff color and features a Macclesfield neats pattern in red, blue, and orange. I’m wearing it under an off-white, French-cuffed shirt. And, into the cuffs, I have inserted our gold-plated, sterling silver, eagle claw cufflinks featuring a tiger’s eye as the stone, which again reinforces the yellow tones.
The relatively coarse weave of my sport coat features wine red, brown, and cream colors, and I’m wearing it over neutral trousers in a taupe shade to ground the outfit somewhat.
Finally, my shoes are chocolate brown, suede oxfords and I have inserted tan shoelaces into them, which are also from Fort Belvedere. And, of course, you can find all of the Fort Belvedere accessories I’m wearing today, as well as a wide variety of other pocket square options, in the Fort Belvedere shop.