I recently had a frustrating conversation with someone about pocket squares.
I know, I know.
“Such a drama queen!”
“Cue the SavileRowProblems hashtag!”
It seems a fairly light-hearted topic to get heated over; a mere sartorial ornament, a decorative bit of material in a jacket pocket. The sort of thing two people should briefly disagree on, realise their folly and slap each other on the back in disbelief. However, it really irked me as it demonstrated the kind of shoddy dogma that the iGent brigade inflict on the sartorially libertarian.
It began as the person in question opined that I must have dressed in the dark as I had ‘stolen my pocket square from someone else’s outfit.’ “Your pocket square has to pick up” he said “colour from your tie or from your shirt, otherwise you shouldn’t wear one.” I was wearing a pocket square that was tonally in the same palette as my suit (brown), as distinct from my shirt and tie (both different shades of blue). To me, the balance was right. The blue palette had two tonal varieties and I decided that the brown needed that balance. “No” he said “it’s wrong. I know you like your clothes, but you really should follow the rules. You should have worn that blue one you wore the other day.”
It always dismays me when new sartorialists choose to follow ‘The Word’ over their own eyes, but it is particularly grating when they try and inflict their new found doctrines on others by invoking tired arguments about right and wrong that are not at all grounded in the aesthetic but simply lifted from another source and delivered with the same unequivocal empiricism as the Ten Commandments. Some rules have a good grounding in aesthetics and should be followed for that purpose (see: not exposing the waistband when wearing a waistcoat), but following a rule for the sake of it is absolutely baffling.
Colour is magnificent and is one of the great wonders. That we can dye fabric so many tones, and wear all the colours of the natural world, is an underappreciated privilege. When I was packing a pile of pocket squares for a photoshoot recently, I was utterly transfixed by the rainbow that was puffing out of my keepall. It was then that I realised how futile it would be to learn by any other measure than our own eyes how harmonies of colour could balance an ensemble. That a bright green v-neck jumper with a white shirt and navy tie is brilliantly offset by a yellow-patterned square or that a traditional Capitol Hill ensemble of a navy suit, red tie and white shirt might be lifted from the mundane by a royal blue puff.
Balance is always important but remember that it is your eyes – and those of others – that are the best judge of this.