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Not a lot of people know this, but the pocket square has been around since before Don Draper. Quite a bit before, in fact. Handkerchiefs have been popular since the 1400s, when the upper classes first adopted them as an accessory. Silk and embroidered, they were used as symbols of wealth and status. French nobles even scented them to help make up for a general lack of bathing facilities.
By the 1800s and the emergence of the two-piece suit as a male wardrobe must-have, gentlemen didn’t want their handkerchiefs mixing with the coins and rubble in their trouser pockets. So the pocket square as we know it was born, and it has survived as a staple that helps tie an outfit together ever since.
But while the vibe you’re going for may be effortless, the accessory does require some thought. Not least because in more than a century of #menswear, dapper Dan types have imagined a surprising number of ways to fold a pocket square.
Below, we’ve counted eight different methods, with instructions on how to fold each of them. Which one you decide on will depend on how formal you want it to look, and how much patience you have. Apart from that, all you’ll need is a trusty pocket square, a willing breast pocket and a steady hand.
The Square Fold
Otherwise known as the presidential fold, this is the easiest to accomplish. To master the squared-off shape, simply fold your pocket square in half, then fold it back on itself in half again and then once more in half vertically, so you’re left with a small square to pop in your pocket.
Line the clean edge nice and straight, adjacent to the top of your pocket. You should be done in under 30 seconds.
How To Wear It: It wasn’t dubbed the presidential fold for nothing. The sharp edge works with a professional, buttoned-up look, especially when using a white cloth. Bonus points for ironing the fold in place.
The One-Point Fold
For the most basic pointed pocket square look, fold the cloth in half, then in half again so that you have a compact square. Place the square in front of you like a diamond and fold the two outer corners slightly over the centre to form a cone shape.
Finally, fold the bottom of the cone back on itself and pop in your pocket with the point facing upwards.
How To Wear It: This versatile one-point fold will work well for business or casual events. Go for cotton or linen and don’t overthink it. It’s not boring, it’s classic.
The Two-Point Fold
To score double points with your style, fold your pocket square in half, corner to corner, but leave the two points slightly askew, one next to the other. Now fold one side inwards across two-thirds of the length. Do the same the other side (some fabric on this fold will extend behind), then fold the bottom behind on itself to leave the required height.
Make sure the fabric inside your pocket is as flat as possible to ensure there’s no unwanted bulge.
How To Wear It: This versatile fold looks great with patterned or plain fabrics, and registers a point of difference without going full peacock. A nice way to stand out at a smarter office.
The Three-Point Fold
For this three peaks challenge, fold the pocket square in half by the corners, creating a triangle. Now take the bottom left corner and fold it diagonally upwards, making a second point at the top right. Do the same with the other side then fold in the outer corners to slim the shape ready for your pocket.
Don’t worry about being perfectly symmetrical unless you’ve got a) hours of free time, or b) a burning desire to look like a psychopath.
How To Wear It: One of the more formal styles of pocket square here, save this one for weddings.
The Four-Point Fold
To be on point with the pointiest of point folds, you’ll need a little origami skill. Start by folding the cloth in half, but make the two points slightly askew. From here, follow the same technique as the three-point by folding the bottom corners up diagonally, adding a third and fourth point.
Last, fold the lower sides inwards to make a neat finish that will slip into your pocket.
How To Wear It: This looks best with a thin material such as linen, because it’s quite a bulky fold and you want to avoid a bulge. It’s also quite the dandy look so keep it in the locker for Fashion Week or similar showboating exercises.
The Winged Puff Fold
This is an intricately folded triangle with a parting down the centre to give it a point of difference. Start by folding the cloth in half by the corners to create a triangle. Take the two wider corners and fold them towards to the point, so you’re left with a diamond shape.
Now fold the sides behind and the bottom up, so you end up with a small square with a point at the top. Place the puffed part at the top of your pocket.
How To Wear It: It’s not a show-off fold, but when people spot it, they’ll notice the effort that went in. Which makes it a subtle power play at the office.
The Scallop Fold
This fold can be styled up or down depending on how dandy you’re feeling. Take your material and fold diagonally by the corners, then repeat. Now, hold the smaller triangle so the two widest corners are at the top.
Take one corner and wrap it round and down, and repeat on the other side, layering over the first corner. You should be left with a layered, rounded fold. Place the point at the bottom of your pocket, so the rounded fold sits at the top.
How To Wear It: Because it’s layered, you can either keep this fold neat and tidy for a casual office look, or separate the layers slightly for something more intricate and wedding appropriate. Mind you, if it looks like the folded napkin in front of you, you’ve gone too far…
The Dunaway Fold
We’re in full Pitti peacock territory now, so pay attention. Pinch the material at the centre of the square and lift it carefully upwards. Bunch it together by making a ring out of your thumb and forefinger.
Now, simply pop this into your pocket and spend as many hours as you have free arranging the corners to look as flamboyant as you want.
How To Wear It: The layers in this fold give it a floral, arty look. Better suited for a night at the theatre than a day in the office.