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The Compass  /  AccessoriesStyle  /  How to Fold a Pocket Square – The Square Fold

How to Fold a Pocket Square – The Square Fold

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It’s completely unnecessary, yet absolutely essential. Unlike its utilitarian ancestor, the handkerchief, the modern pocket square is purely form over function.

Straightforward, trim, and low-maintenance, a square fold pocket square is always an appropriate accent to a well-dressed man’s ensemble.

There was a time when the square fold was the only fold for most men. Exhibit A: Don Draper. Of course, the men of Don’s era may have been influenced by the only president to ever have his own men’s accessories and suit shop, Harry Truman. The 33rd President so popularized his own stiff brand of square fold it became known as the “Presidential Fold” throughout the 1950s.

These days the square fold is back, but in a more relaxed style. The edge no longer needs to be sharp enough to give you a paper cut. The rectangle formed by the fold doesn’t need to be meticulously aligned to ensure that each angle is exactly 90 degrees.

While a perfectly crispy square still looks sharp, a slight angle and a relaxed edge can give it a touch of sprezz. A square fold is timeless and it looks sharp with any outfit. Pulling it off is so simple we skipped our usual how-to guide in favor of a fun video!


How do you personalize your square fold? Have any other go-to folds? Let us know below.

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22 thoughts on “How to Fold a Pocket Square – The Square Fold”

  1. Many of your posts advise that pocket squares are almost a compulsory part of a man’s dress – and yet, here in England, I see hardly any men with pocket squares unless it’s a very formal occasion – and even then they’re not all that common. I want to wear one, but here it seems that they’re pretty much unacceptable in an interviewing environment, unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb! What’s going on!?

    1. Say it isn’t so, Will. The English were the first to bring the handkerchief into the refined world of menswear. Back in the day when the snuff habit was rampant among the English upper classes, the hanky became a necessity for the sneezy snuffer. Later, the Duke of Windsor popularized boldly colored and patterned silk pocket squares imported from colonial India. (Just try to find a picture of him without a pocket square.)

      Some of today’s best dressed Brits, from royalty like Prince Charles to commoners like David Gandy are seldom seen without a pocket square, but it sounds like the average guy on the street doesn’t wear one. Same is true here in The States. But who wants to be average? Can’t we aspire to better without being labeled as fops? We think so. Hence, we wear pocket squares regularly.

      Still, the choice is your, Will. If wearing a job-interview-appropriate, white, square-folded pocket square will make you feel self- conscious, don’t wear it. The last thing you want in your head in a job interview is doubt. If, however, you feel emboldened by the pocket square and knowing that you’re following in the footsteps of some of the icons of style (English and otherwise), then, by all means, wear it with pride.

  2. Square folds are best used on cotton or linen. I think silk squares are better suited to a tidy puff.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Agreed! In fact, the next pocket square video we’ll be releasing is how to make said “tidy puff.”

      1. Excellent. :) I need to use that more, myself, as it also works well with linen. Very Cary Grant.

        1. Black Lapel says:

          Indeed! We could all use a little more Cary Grant in our lives.

  3. Great video. When it comes to matching pocket squares and shirts/ties, I’ve always heard compliment the tie or shirt color/tones but I’ve heard differing opinions on matching the square exactly to the tie. Specifically in regards to solid ties and squares, I’ve heard one should avoid wearing two the same color. What’s BL’s take on this?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      You hit the nail on the head with the word complement, as in “add to (something) in a way that enhances or improves it; make perfect” (That’s the Oxford American dictionary talking right there). Matching a solid colored pocket square to a solid colored tie doesn’t complement, it matches! That’s a JV move. Step up to Varsity squad and mix things up a bit. You can use the same basic guidelines we gave for pairing shirts and ties to pair pocket squares and ties.

      Of course, there is one extremely easy way to make sure your pocket squares go well with all your suit/shirt/tie combos…just collect a bunch of white pocket squares and change the texture/fabric/fold depending on your mood.

  4. What size is that pocket square? I have noticed some of my larger pocket squares (16″x16″) are difficult to fit in the Black Lapel jacket pockets, which seem slightly narrower than most of my other suits.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      16″ x 16″ is quite big, Mike. The Black Lapel pocket squares are 11.75″ by 11.75″ and, of course, fit the pockets to our jackets quite well. The beauty of a square fold is that it works for almost any size (you may just have to fold it one more time).

      Happy folding!

  5. Christopher McFarlane says:

    I mostly use the three stair fold, does Black Lapel approve?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Black Lapel sees your three stair fold on the street as you are walking towards Black Lapel and Black Lapel makes eye contact and gives you a subtle nod because Black Lapel approves.

  6. cool now teach how to tie a tie

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We’re working on tie basics pieces as well, Tina. Coming soon!

  7. This video is AWESOME!!! also would love to see some other pocket square folds…

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks Brian, we’re working on some more fold videos. Stay tuned!

  8. Quick question – Should a pocket square be worn when a boutonnière is also present?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Sure, Derek. In fact, this is a prime example of when the understated square fold is a good move. If you’ve got some contraption going on in your pocket that looks like an explosion of color and then you put a flower in your lapel, it can be distracting. Better to offset the natural shape of the boutonniere with the rectangular pocket square.

      1. Totally agree with this response.

        I also have a question of my own. I’ve learned it’s an unwritten rule to stick with 3 pieces of jewelry for men. For example, if you’re wearing a tie bar, watch, and cufflinks, you’d avoid wearing rings (wedding ring excluded I presume) or other jewelry.

        How do pocket squares fit into this? They clearly are not jewelry, so does it matter? What about lapel pins or something in your boutonniere?

        1. Black Lapel says:

          Whoever writes unwritten rules is clearly not confident enough in them to man up and write them down. We say, follow only one rule: wear only what you are confident in.

          To answer your specific questions, pocket squares don’t count as jewelry (neither do tie clips or watches for that matter). If you want to wear something in your boutonniere you and a pocket square, you won’t get any snark from us. We’re partial to felt lapel flowers like these from Kent Wang. You can’t go wrong with white, but a little color to offset your suit can be a nice touch as well.

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