The Pocket Square: Sartorial Style on Show

Image of The Pocket Square: 22 Essential Folds
Release Date: 
May 16, 2016
Thames & Hudson
Reviewed by: 

“Match your pocket square with your shirt, shoes, socks, belt, hat, gloves or trousers. But not your tie!” Thus reads the first point of etiquette in The Pocket Square: Sartorial Style on Show by A. C. Phillips. The slim volume will be a great Father's Day present as well as a useful volume for the gentleman who desires a smart, stylish look.

The Pocket Square profiles “22 essential folds,” from the conservative to the flamboyant. Illustrated with minimalist line drawings, the book is a practical guide for mastering even the most complicated folds. Advice on fabrics and social occasions allow for an individual to choose the most appropriate pocket square fold.

Folds include The Presidential, The Tulip, The Cagney, Le Croissant, The Windsor Puff, The Guido Puff, The Cooper Puff, The Fred Astaire, and The Dunaway. While many famous folds originated with former U.S. presidents and film stars, Phillips traces the pocket square’s origins to Kings Richard II and Louis XVI.

After three- and two-piece suits came into fashion, the pocket square lost its utilitarian function. Like a mantra throughout the text, Phillips reiterates the importance of having “one square for show and another to blow.” “[H]owever, after using it, you may never return it to the pocket from whence it came.” This would be an egregious fashion faux pas.

Interspersed between the diagrams for proper folding, notable quotes have been included. “Looking good and dressing well is a necessity. Having a purpose in life is not.” (Oscar Wilde) “To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.” (Winston Churchill) These aphoristic nuggets help imbue the proper sensibility to the individual wearing the pocket square. While dressing well is a necessity, Phillips provides pocket square recommendations for formal and informal occasions. Mods, dandies, and TV presenters all wore suits. How they wore suits was the key difference.

While the term “gentleman” is used with a specific purpose in mind, The Pocket Square isn't a males-only affair. Once again, the news has the inevitable story of a woman expelled from her prom because she wore a man's suit. The Pocket Square is a useful guide for anyone who wears a suit, biological determinism be damned. Even k. d. lang and Marlena Dietrich wore men's suits with ineffable style. This is a fashion guide for those looking to appear stylish. It has great advice and offers a cogent philosophy for maintaining a fashionable, yet effortless, presentation.