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How to Fold a Pocket Square – The 5 Essential Ways

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Five pocket square folds that make you look like a boss, along with step-by-step instructions on how to fold and wear a pocket square.

How to Fold a Pocket Square

What size is a pocket square? Is it a handkerchief? Is it a pocket silk? Should you use it to wipe your brow? Or nose?

There aren’t hard and fast rules about the difference between a pocket square and a handkerchief, but Webster’s defines a handkerchief as “a small, square piece of linen, cotton, silk, etc., for wiping the nose, eyes, or face, or carried or worn for ornament.” A pocket square, though, is only worn for ornament and is not intended for use as a rag.

Just like all squares are rectangles, all pocket squares are handkerchiefs, but not the other way around. So, to keep things straight, we’ll use the phrase pocket square from here on out.

The Only 5 Pocket Square Folds You Need to Know

There are many ways to fold a pocket square and we’ve seen them all, from the uptight “TV fold” with its rigid 90-degree angles that make it look more like a piece of looseleaf paper in your pocket to the flamboyant, my-jacket-just-threw-up-paisleys look.

It seems most guys fall into two camps, they don’t even attempt to wear a pocket square, or they go way over the top with their pocket square folds.

But if you’re wondering “what’s the best way to fold a pocket square?” or you just want to know “how do you fold a pocket square to look stylish?” you can relax. There are many different ways to fold a pocket square but most fall into the categories of the square fold or the puff. Even among these two main categories, there are many ways to create an expertly folded square. We chose our top five techniques and we promise, by the time you’ve scrolled to the bottom of this page, you’ll be able to produce the perfect pocket.

How to: Square Pocket Folds

#1 – The Standard Square Fold

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Chocolate Drop Pocket Square by Armstrong & Wilson

#2 – The Beefed Up Square Fold

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Brown Wool Pocket Square by Black Lapel

Best Pocket Squares For Square Pocket Folds

Small pocket squares


Smaller pocket squares don’t always give you enough to material to do more intricate pocket square folds. This begs the question: How big is a pocket square? There is no standardized size, but If you’ve got a pocket square that’s smaller than 11 in. x 11 in., it can be tough to do more than square fold it.

Linen Pocket Squares

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Linen fibers stiffen the fabric, making linen pocket square, and pocket squares with linen blended into them, easy to fold into a squared off edge. Because they hold their shape, linen pocket squares also let you create little nonchalantly stylish elements like edges that don’t line up.

Cotton Pocket Squares

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Pocket squares made out of cotton tend to be thin and prone to creasing. You can fold a cotton pocket square into a square fold once and never unfold it again. Just be sure to use a beefed up fold to give the square some oomph.

So you may be wondering how to fold a silk pocket square into a square fold. Will it keep its shape? The answer is, it depends on how the silk is woven, but generally speaking, silk pocket squares are harder to fold square. If you’ve got a silk pocket square, we suggest you start with the puff folds below.

How to: Puff Pocket Square Folds

#3 – The Rose Puff

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City of Washington Pocket Square by Rampley & Co.

#4 – The Knot Puff

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City of Chicago Pocket Square by Rampley & Co.

#5 – The Points Puff

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Brown Wool Pocket Square by Black Lapel

Best Pocket Squares for Puff Pocket Square Folds

Silk Pocket Squares

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Silk, with its smooth, soft qualities puffs easily curving, instead of producing sharp right angles, making for a much more fluid, pleasing look.

Black Tie

If you’re wondering how to fold a pocket square for a tux, the puff is your answer. Unlike it’s more businesslike brother, the square fold, the puff says “I’m dressed up but it’s still a celebration.”

pocket square folds color Royal-Blue

With Casual Outfits

On the other end of the spectrum from black tie, when you’re wearing a blazer more casually, a puff telegraphs a more laid-back vibe that says “I just threw this on.” (We won’t tell anybody you spent an hour in the mirror picking out the perfect outfit.)

pocket square folds with Casual-Suit

How to Wear a Pocket Square

Of course, everyone knows how to wear a pocket square. Simply put it in the chest pocket of your jacket. But knowing how to put in a pocket square takes a bit of skill. After all, there’s no point in going to the effort of perfecting your fold if you ruin it in the transfer to your pocket. But, here’s the thing, the pocket square isn’t finished until you put it in the pocket. Manipulating it to add the finishing touches in your pocket is often a necessary step.

To wear a square fold, either play with the angles in the front and the back of the fold or fan out the edges of the layers a bit to loosen up the look a bit.

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To wear a puff, you’ll likely have to tug on the square a bit around the curves to give it the desired shape and then gently press your chest pocket to reduce the volume in your pocket and avoid the man-boob look.

How to Choose a Pocket Square

Armed with these folds, you’re now ready for anything, right? Sort of…there is still one important component to consider. The pocket square itself. Many guys fret over matching, but it’s really not a big deal. The trick is having a collection of squares that cover a lot of ground.

When in doubt, keep it simple. A white solid pocket square, while a little plain, will suffice for the majority of outfits. You can’t go wrong with a few whites when building your collection. After that, move on to the accent colors that work best with your wardrobe. Got a lot of blue ties? Look for pocket squares that have a blue in their designs. Love earth-toned suits, look for squares in earthy browns and greens. Just remember, most people will only see a 1 in. x 3 in. section of a pocket square, so you don’t have to be too meticulous about choosing colors.

The main thing is to wear one. If for no other reason than the fact that an unfilled pocket looks a bit bare, we believe if you have a jacket on, you should have a pocket square in the pocket. Yes, it’s purely decorative, but then again, most clothes are. Hopefully, we’ve given you all the ammunition you need to never go square-less again.

As always, if you have questions, we’ve got answers. While we can’t build you an outfit in the comments section, we can offer guidance about the pocket square folds and anything else we showcased above.

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10 thoughts on “How to Fold a Pocket Square – The 5 Essential Ways”

  1. Excellent in-depth guide, fellas. Clutch on avoiding the man-boob look.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad it was helpful, Khoi. Man-boob avoidance is one of our top priorities here at Black Lapel.

      1. Thansk for the info on what materials work best for what folds. At first I only had some silk pocket squares and couldn’t figure out why they weren’t holding their rigid shape! Then I bought a cotton one and lo and behold, it was so much easier to fold straight lines.

        1. Glad to be helpful, David. The material does make a big difference, and now that you know these puffs, you can put those silk pocket squares to use.

  2. David Aldred says:

    Most informative. I favour the rigid, razor-sharp architectural pocket square, pressed to resemble a piece of card. My problem, however, the varying depth of breast pockets, meaning the whole square often slips down and disappears, so I resort to safety-pinning the darn thing in place – meaning there’s absolutely no possibility of using it to sneeze into.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Well, maybe that’s a good thing, David. After all, as we said above, a pocket square “is only worn for ornament and is not intended for use as a rag.” So sneezing into it is not a good move anyway.

      Still, the safety pin sounds cumbersome. To avoid the pocket square taking a dive and disappearing into your pocket we suggest two remedies: 1) bigger pocket squares so that there’s enough material to make it stand up tall, and 2) the beefed-up square fold above, which creates the volume to keep your pocket square in place, rather than slipping down.

  3. Pingback: How to Fold a Pocket Square – The 5 Essential Ways – Francis Avenue

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