Problem in the Pocket

“I have a problem…I bought five pocket squares recently from a London tailoring shop but they all fall down inside my pocket and don’t have the ‘puff’ that I have seen in others. How should I fold it? Or are the squares too small? Or the pocket too big. Thanks.”

Folding pocket squares is a skill. Not much of a skill, but a skill nonetheless and as with all skills, it develops over time.

The first square fold (or stuff) is one about which you are uncomfortably self-conscious. Patting it with your hand, pulling it up, looking down at it; in other words, blasphemous behaviour according to Hardy Amies.

The 1000th square fold shows a growing maturity, with a perfecting of the fold or stuff to each pocket and a distinctive and personal style.

However, there are some things that even skill cannot always alter.

One of the things that I have come to realise is that made-to-measure and particularly fully bespoke suits are a far better home for pocket squares than off the peg suits; another reason, should it be needed, to focus on using a tailor when you can afford to.

The reason why is simple. Suits off the rack, no matter how good the fit, have excess material that exists due to the suit being cut to a block rather than to your body. Because of this, parts of the suit – particularly the chest construction – do not have a sufficient amount of tension to keep pocket squares secure. A suit cut to your body has little to no excess material and therefore, the correct amount of tension is consistently applied across the fabric ‘holding’ the square in place.

To see how this works, a good experiment is to sit upright in your bespoke or MTM suit jacket with a small-ish square stuffed in. There should be little to no ‘ripple’ in the chest canvas due to the tension of the fabric. The opposite is true of an off the rack, and the pocket opens widely as a result with the square slipping down.

The way around this, for off the rack devotees, is either to increase the size of the pocket square, filling out the larger pocket with a greater ‘stuffing’ effect or to get a tailor to reduce the internal size of the pocket by stitching together the edges of the lining. Both are somewhat imperfect. The worst thing about a big pocket square is that it can overflow very easily or, in a small pocket, create a very unattractive lump.

The Case of the Disappearing Pocket Square is a common problem due to the fact that few pocket squares are big enough to create the ‘stuffed’ effect without slipping down halfway through the day. “You can just fold it” some say, which is true as it will at least allow the square to stand on the bottom of the pocket lining, but the stuffed effect, which is so easy to achieve with any size and material of square in a fully bespoke jacket, is often elusive.