We are still struggling to get the world back in ties. It isn’t as hard as it was a year ago, two years ago, but the battle is far from over. I got sent articles (plural) yesterday (and thank you) about working denim into your office portfolio. I have done you the service of reprinting my article in its entirety on denim in the office here:
I would make this argument for the pocket square in the face of declining but still prevalent sartorial informality. You don’t have to wear a tie to wear a pocket square. Put in a different light, you might even consider the pocket square a gateway drug to a tie.
Do pocket squares translate in the real world? Can I imagine a 20 something wearing a pocket square to lunch on a Saturday in town? I kind of can. If I had told you 18 years ago that in 9 years it would be cool to dress like a lumberjack to lunch on a Saturday in town you would have laughed. But we all lived through it.
I have been knee deep in True Style (G. Bruce Boyer, 2015) the last few days, so I sought out Mr. Boyer’s thoughts on the pocket square, and found gold. From the book:
“Problem is that one man’s ideas of coordination is another’s view of overplanned contrivance. Psychologically, accessories that are perfectly matched up tend to leave either a distinction contrived, studied impression or the complete opposite: the feeling that the man was dressed by his wife or a salesman. On the former hand, we sense vanity and wasted time before the mirror, on the latter, a childlike inability to cope. Vanity, of course, comes off worse, because it’s the striving that we see. The overly fussy concern that reveals social anxiety, a lack of self-assurance, not knowing who we are or what role we intend to play. These are psychologically deep waters, Watson, and ones any reasonable man will avoid.”
“Proper business dress in particular should aim for approachable dignity rather than flamboyance.”
Dignity. I knew I came to the right place.
To try this out, I went to in two different directions. First, from designer Kent Wang, the basic white linen pocket square, which you can check out and buy here.
And show in an application here:
I wore this in two ways, first, with a navy suit, as shown. It felt right, not overdone, something I can pull off. No one said anything, but I just felt that much more dressed. I also wore it with a patterned sport coat. That was a mistake. It felt very contrived. In that regard, pocket squares are like first kisses, never a good idea if they feel forced.
The second one I tried was a completely different story. Also from Mr. Wang’s website, you can see it here.
From the site, two applications:
The piece is art. So much so that I struggled with concealing most of it. But then it occurred to me that that is the point of it. The message is tip-of-the-iceberg-if-you-like-what-you-see. And that, folks is a nice message to send. When I wore it, with a gray suit as suggested, I got more than a few compliments. Ok, two were of the I-wish-more-men-dressed-nicely variety, but they still count. One should not dress for compliments. Ever. On the other hand, feedback is how we learn.
How you fold the pocket square is as individual as how you tie your tie, there are a few acceptable choices, and a few unacceptable ones. But the takeaway is this, if you are going to go to the trouble of expressing dignity through what you choose to wear, consider an accessory that is a rounding error compared to everything else you are buying, but serves as an exclamation point you have to squint a little to see.