Surrender the Square? : No, Just Pocket the Change


Boy, are the '80s history. It used to be that few self-assured bankers/brokers/developers would show up at the office without a flashy pocket square bubbling up from their jacket.

Silky squares of fabric were poked into pockets to resemble the bloom of a rose or meticulously folded to reveal two or more corners. It was part of the flash, but now that many of those guys are either trying to get extensions on their unemployment or telecommuting at home, the need to gain attention has diminished.

Welcome to the austere mid-'90s, where status is a Swiss Army watch and a job with health benefits.

If you haven't worn a square since the early days of the Bush administration, you're not alone.

"Guys haven't been wearing them every day, if at all," says Ziva Adams of Tie Rack in Santa Ana.

"They're considered extravagant and frivolous, even though they're not very expensive," says John Shaw of Alex Sebastian for Men in Costa Mesa. "Guys who wear them are often afraid of not be taken seriously in these more serious times."

The latest word on men's ties, braces and pocket squares is muted. And the pocket square, if it's used at all, is subtle.

"The colors that they're buying are navy, black, cream and white. The days of the brightly colored pocket squares are over for a while," Adams says.

There has been a rise in popularity of the accessory the pocket square replaced--the plain white hankie. "Wearing a handkerchief is considered more sophisticated," Shaw says. "Cotton doesn't have the sheen or luster of silk."

The white or off-white handkerchief is probably the most basic accessory.

"A lot of guys are now building or rebuilding their wardrobes, and they're starting out with the staples," Adams says. "A white hankie or pocket square goes with a wide variety of jackets and suits, which is what they're looking for."

If you feel the need to update your pocket squares, hurry over to the mall. Chances are you'll be competing for the best ones with other shoppers--women.

"We're finding that women are starting to wear them more now," Adams says. "It creates a more tailored look that's in now with many women's suits."

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