The Difference Between Pocket Squares and Handkerchiefs

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They look similar enough, so why aren’t the two interchangeable? But the pocket square is not a handkerchief, and neither is it true vice versa…

Fabric

A pocket square and a handkerchief is almost always distinguished by their fabric. While handkerchiefs are usually made of cotton, pocket squares are typically made of silk or satin.

Price

Given that they are made of different fabrics, with one much fancier than the other, it is expected that the pocket square would be a little more expensive than the humble handkerchief, though it has a rather varied price range. In other words, a pocket square may be staggeringly expensive, especially with a higher quality silk and perhaps, a rather elaborate design, or it can also be really affordable from a lower quality silk blend. The handkerchief, however, generally follows a uniform price range – it is rare that you will be forking out too much for one.

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Size

Like its price, the size of a pocket square also varies, and while the general consensus is that it is smaller than the handkerchief, it is not uncommon to find a large pocket square. The difference in size you explain the kind of pocket it best complements. For example, smaller pocket squares go best with patch pockets, since larger squares would look disproportionate and are best worn in lined breast pockets.

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Purpose

You probably already know this one, but where a pocket square is merely a decorative accessory to make one’s stylishness known, a handkerchief is used for rather practical purposes – a dressier tissue paper so to say, if your nose requires one. But unlike a tissue paper that’s thrown away, the handkerchief is instead folded back and stashed away from view, unlike the preening pocket square, peeking out from one’s breast pocket.

Thickness

Given their different purposes, it would also make sense that both are made with different thickness. The pocket square needs to be as thin as paper, especially if it needs to go in a smaller pocket with effortless ease. The handkerchief on the other hand needs strength and a sort of ‘durability’, so it’s not uncommon to have double-ply handkerchiefs.

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