How To Fold A Pocket Square: A Complete Guide To Folding A Handkerchief With Step-By-Step Instructions

How To Fold A Pocket Square: A Complete Guide To Folding A Handkerchief With Step-By-Step Instructions 2017-12-13T13:22:50+00:00

This article is part of our series on pocket squares and will deal specifically with how to fold a pocket square. There are both graphics and written steps to help you out.

If you’re looking for information on how to coordinate pocket squares with outfits and how to otherwise wear them, see our other pocket square pages:

6 Easy Pocket Square Folds & How To Fold Them

1. TV / Presidential Fold

how-to-fold-a-pocket square tv presidential

How To Fold:

  1. Lay pocket square flat
  2. Fold in half
  3. Fold almost in half in the other direction.
  4. Place square in breast pocket, allowing approximately .25″-.5″ to show

The TV Fold (also known as the Presidential fold) is so named because of its popularity amongst American TV game show hosts in the 1950’s. It’s a simple fold that shows a straight line of .25″-.5″ of pocket square above the breast pocket.

There are some who consider this fold passé; Flusser chalks this up to its “…purposeful symmetry” that “…contravened the art form’s underlying spontaneity.”

We couldn’t disagree more. It’s a simple, conservative fold that’s easy to execute. It gets a pass from us.

  • Ideal situations: Job interviews, funerals, sartorially conservative functions
  • Ideal material: Cotton or linen

2. Puff Fold

how-to-fold-a-pocket square puff

How To Fold:

  1. Lay square out flat
  2. Grab center of square in your right hand
  3. While still holding the center with your right hand, use your left hand to fold the points behind the “puffy” part of the square.
  4. Place in pocket with only the “puff” part showing. Adjust to your liking.

puff pocket square fold

Allegedly invented by Fred Astaire, the puff fold gets its name from the cloudy, “puff” shape created when finished in the breast pocket. Once you learn the fold, it’s one of the quickest to execute and punches far above its weight in style points.

3. The Simple Foldover

how-to-fold-a-pocket square simple foldover

How To Fold:

  1. Lay square out flat
  2. Fold square in half
  3. Fold in half again, going the other way
  4. Fold in half again
  5. Fold in half the other way one last time, but don’t make both ends of the square “meet”
  6. Place in pocket in such a way that both sides of the square are visible.

This fold is simply a slightly asymmetrical TV fold with the handkerchief’s edges facing upwards. Easy to execute while simultaneously sartorially conservative and visually interesting, it works particularly well with white hanks that have colored trim:

simple fold pocket square

  • Ideal situations: Anything
  • Ideal material: Cotton or linen

4. One Point

how-to-fold-a-pocket-square-one-point handkerchief

How To Fold:

  1. Lay square out flat
  2. Fold in half diagonally
  3. Fold the left side of the triangle one-third of the way “in”
  4. Fold right side of the triangle one-third of the way “in.” A point should now have formed at the top.
  5. Place in pocket with point facing up. About an inch or so is sufficient.

Another easy-to-fold number, one point looks like a triangle pointing upwards from your breast pocket. A bit more complex than a TV fold, it’s a tad more conspicuous as well. Works particularly well with solid squares.

  • Ideal situations: Weddings, dates, after-hours functions such as black tie events
  • Ideal material: Cotton or linen

5. Two Points

how-to-fold-a-two-point pocket square

How To Fold:

  1. Lay square out flat
  2. Fold in half diagonally but a bit to the side so the fold is somewhat asymmetrical and generates two “points”
  3. Fold left corner in approximately 1/3 of the way
  4. Repeat step three with other corner
  5. Place in pocket with both points showing approximately .5″ above the hem. Adjust to your taste.

Similar to the one-point fold above, but with two points showing up from the pocket. This is about as complex as we think a pocket square fold should get.

6. “The Plop”

How To Fold:

  1. Take pocket square into your hand
  2. Plop it in the breast pocket
  3. Adjust to your liking

Cary Grant was known for this. It’s is essentially a non-fold, a version of the puff that’s been stuffed into the pocket as opposed to folded. This “fold” is very casual in nature and goes very well with casual looks like odd jackets and trousers, sport coats with button-down collar shirts, and so on.

  • Ideal situations: Weddings, dates, casual days at the office
  • Ideal material: Anything

Folding A Pocket Square

Having a discussion on the “proper” ways to fold a pocket square is somewhat of an exercise in missing the point. While it’s true that folding a handkerchief requires a certain level of care similar to tying a tie, the whole point is to look unstudied, unfussy, and natural.

The word “aplomb” -that is, “casually self-assured”- comes to mind when we think about how one should wear a pocket square. To obsess over how your pocket square is folded is the antithesis of aplomb, which is in effect the antithesis of style itself.

There are many websites out there that will show you things like fifty different ways to fold a pocket square to get fifty different looks out of them. While we appreciate the attention to detail and thoroughness, these folds that make your pocket squares look like roses or castles or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters are more for novelty than anything else. Like a musician who can play expertly but without feeling, these crazy folds are the mark of a dresser who relies on complexity in lieu of style.

They miss the point of wearing a pocket square.

Now, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t pay attention to how you manipulate your pocket silk. There are certain folds that work better for certain materials and certain situations. We are happy to offer guidance on five different folds so that you can have some choice when getting dressed. Importantly, these are all reasonably easy to fold. One of the biggest reasons men avoid wearing pocket squares is fear that they won’t fold them correctly, and hopefully this will help you get over that hump.

Please, don’t spend too much time on them. Allow your pocket square to do its thing. You will look and feel more natural, meaning that you’ll be more stylish as a result.

Pocket Square Aesthetics

Regardless of how you fold your pocket square, there’s one aesthetic rule that we should address. Your pocket square should add to your ensemble without taking anything away. The key here is to be inconspicuous.

plain and ornate pocket square folds

The above left photo is how a pocket square should look: natural and not stepping on the toes of the other outfit elements by which it’s surrounded. The above right photo is the same combination but with a foppishly overdone handkerchief. It’s not that it gets attention, it distracts and detracts from the whole.

Remember: the whole point is to get the viewer to look at your face, not just your pocket square.

How Materials Affect Handkerchief Folds

What your pocket square is made of will absolutely affect how it folds and performs in the pocket. Silk has a “wet,” “loose” texture that gives it a certain airiness, while cotton and linen are “dry,” stiffer, and tend to stand at attention more.

Why Do We Fold Handkerchiefs?

In the 1920s, folding techniques forever changed the handkerchief’s place in fashion. Instead of seeing the breast pocket as a clean place to keep a handkerchief, the pocket square became a stylistic statement rather than a utilitarian one.

In an interesting twist, men started to keep a separate handkerchief in their trousers to wipe their nose with, while leaving the pocket square untouched. Nowadays, this is referred to as the “one for blowin’, one for showin'” rule.

Conclusion & Where To Learn More

Your pocket square should serve to enhance your attire without distracting from any other part of it, especially your face. The folds we detail above are all easy enough to execute so you should be able to wear your pocket square and not let it wear you. For your convenience, here are links to our other pocket square pages:

Finally, there are many other elements to the tailored ensemble that make a man look his best. Check out our home pages for suits and style for plenty more reading on these subjects.

How To Fold A Pocket Square
Reviewed by Paul Anthony, on .
"The only resource you'll need when it comes to folding a pocket square. Learn how to fold a pocket square in six different ways with easy-to-follow instructions."
Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★

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