It started out as a royal ornament, established itself as a distinguishing feature of high society and is now back in fashion after a period of being 'stifled'.
The pocket handkerchief, also known as a clutch bag, is a must-have accessory for those who want to add a touch of originality and elegance to their look. It is, after all, a small detail, but one that can make all the difference. Whether you choose to combine it with a work outfit, an evening suit or - why not? - a more casual outfit, the handkerchief instantly gives personality and class to the wearer, provided, however, that you know how to juggle fabrics, folds and colours.
A historical plot
It is said that the pochette was invented by King Richard II of England towards the end of the 14th century, or that it was at his court that its use became widespread among the nobility.
In eighteenth-century France, the sovereign used to end his daily toilette by choosing, according to his mood, one of the coloured handkerchiefs decorated with bows and lace that a page offered him on a tray, and then slipping it into his jacket pocket, leaving one edge out.
In the19th century, with the invention of two-piece suits, many men began to put their handkerchief in their jacket pocket to prevent it from getting dirty in their trouser pocket, where it would come into contact with coins and other objects.
It was in the 1920s, however, that it became a real fashion accessory, finally moving away from hygienic use, while in the 1950s and 1960s it went crazy on the jackets of Hollywood icons such as Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire and Clark Gable.
Having fallen into oblivion in the Nineties, in recent years it has come back into the limelight, thanks in part to the success of American series such as Mad Men, in which the clutch bag has become a symbol of the style of the successful businessman.
A clutch bag for every occasion
Today, the use of the pocket handkerchief is not only limited to special occasions, quite the contrary! If worn in a coherent way with the rest of the outfit, it guarantees a touch of originality and sophistication even to the most informal jackets, thanks to the great variety of patterns, colours and fabrics available on the market. Generally the pochette is square-shaped, with the size of the side varying between thirty and forty centimetres, so that - once inserted in the pocket - it does not sink in or stick out too much. It can be made in different materials, to be chosen according to the season: if in winter it is better to focus on wool, silk and cashmere, in summer linen and cotton are the fabrics to be preferred.
The choice of colour and possible pattern can perhaps be more complex. The number one rule, if you don't know where to start, is the following: never choose a pocket handkerchief in the same pattern as your shirt and tie! It is best to choose a colour that is not particularly strong, so as not to distract attention from the overall effect. The white handkerchief is a must-have to give a touch of elegance to the outfit: it matches any jacket and is good for any occasion, from a dinner for two to a wedding. If, on the other hand, you decide to wear a coloured handkerchief, pay attention to the nuances of the tie, shirt and socks and check that there is an overall agreement. Finally, be careful not to overlap different patterns: if the tie is plain, it is better to choose a patterned handkerchief to create a bit of movement, and vice versa.
The right fold
How to wear it? There is an infinity of different folds that can be made - more or less easily - to insert the pochette in the pocket. Beginners are advised to start with the most classic, perfect for every look and easy to recreate: the "straight" fold , also known as the "presidential" fold, which allows you to show only a small strip of silk or cotton that discreetly emerges from the pocket.
More daring, however, is the "two-pronged" crease, ideal for more uniform business suits, as it gives a bit of movement while remaining neat. The "cruise ship" pleat, with a slight inclination that makes the two points asymmetrical, is instead indicated for a more summery and casual look, to be carried out possibly with a linen clutch bag. Finally, the "diagonal" pleat is complex but has a great effect, perfect with a silk handkerchief for special occasions. It is true, as Sherlock Holmes said, that "the smallest details are by far the most important".