The male wardrobe, at its essence, is about efficiency. Yet within the confines of the finely tuned, male suit there are opportunities for excess. Cufflinks, of course, as well as the quality of materials; but there is also an item that can add a dash of colour and flamboyance or a mark of elegance and subtlety. One small piece of fabric can do so much by doing so little.
The pocket square offers no real use. Unlike trousers or shoes or the dress shirt or the jacket (which makes the suit a suit) or even the necktie, which covers the done-up top button, the pocket square does nothing - except tell others that you are making a statement. While clothes can make the man, a pocket square can either scream a desire to be noticed or say almost nothing at all.
A pocket square can be that whimsical element added to an outfit without stepping beyond what a conservative dresser might find acceptable. Conversely, it can also bring a touch of pizzazz to an already layered and well-thought-out look. Regardless, the man who wears one is saying something, but is it worthwhile?
Speaking for the sake of it is pointless and sporting a pocket square "just because" is not enough of a reason. A pocket square is the icing on the cake; it is the championship title at the end of an outstanding season. In other words, the rest of the wardrobe must be deserving of a pocket square. If a suit is old and tired, the pocket square will stand out as being too much; but if the suit is of a sufficiently good quality, then the pocket square is the finishing touch.
A suit without a pocket square looks like a uniform. It is a top and a bottom (ie, a jacket and trousers) of the same fabric and design. From the neck to the shoes, the man who is wearing a suit is showing a united front. Think Don Draper from Mad Men in one of his light grey, well-tailored suits. It looks like a shield. Throw in a pocket square and there is a chink in the armour. It adds a moment's hesitation. It catches the eye. Think Neil Patrick Harris's character from How I Met Your Mother after he has suited up. Now, take it one step further and instead of the architect-style pocket square, imagine a splash of colour with a pocket square that has been shoved into the breast pocket as though you are stuffing facial tissue in a deep glass to absorb the water. This affected look conveys a message different from what Don Draper would want, and this is the power of a small piece of fabric.
Athletes, for example, regardless of which side of the Atlantic they ply their trade, can usually afford to wear whichever designer labels they choose, but it is easy to tell the well-intentioned amateur from the well-dressed professional with a look at the men as they enter the stadium and make their way to their locker rooms. The man who is sporting a pocket square is the one who has a goal in mind.
Michael Jabri-Pickett is the news editor at The National
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