“Puff fold” was Fred Astaire’s signature, its nonchalant drape a style he claimed to have invented. Who would dare question he didn’t? Bogey played it safe, his “square-end” fold never flirted beyond the expected. Duke of Windsor wore his neatly, but unconventionally, folded, then tilted at odd angles, therein his own inimitable signature.
Cary Grant, like Bogey, favored a square-end fold, but sloped its angle backwards, chamfered opposite the expected; an au contraire twist that became his own emblematic marque. Wedged will-nilly into his breast pocket, Gary Cooper’s was personate of happenstance indifference. Ever the maverick, his style symbolized a kind of casual, unconcerned sophistication born from a self-confidence the Italian’s admiringly call “sprezzatura”, a devil-may-care elegance won only by a seemingly effortless and self-assured, c’est la vie insouciance.
History tells it was a fashionable, 17th century Venetian noblewoman who first introduced the handkerchief. A square cut from pure flax, it was accented with lace and colorfully embroidered; her monogram, included, which itself sparked still another craze. Pulled from her sleeve, then carried in her hand during a Sunday garden promenade that counted Italy’s royalty, the novel new fashion accessory became an instant fashion sensation among Europe’s lords and ladies. The need to contain a sudden, snuff-caused sneeze, added function to from and sped the popularity of handkerchiefs.
Until Louis XVI’s reign in the late-1700s, handkerchiefs came in every shape and size imaginable. Thank his wife, Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria, Queen of France, for both size and geometry of today’s handkerchief. Annoyed at the endless shapes and sizes, she convinced the King a square measuring 16” by 16” would be the most aesthetically pleasing. Overnight, Louis XVI decreed all but square handkerchiefs out of existence, their measure a mandatory 16” by 16”; still today’s ideal size. Hence was born the “square” in pocket square.
Designed as a handy stow for the exploding popularity of fashion handkerchiefs, a left breast pocket was added to men’s suits in the late-1800s. Therein was completed and born the pocket handkerchief’s modern sobriquet: “pocket” square.
Today, the rules that defined pocket square protocol are few and simple.If silk, or a finely woven linen, or cotton, Their measure should be at least 16” by 16”. 13” by 13” if woolen, wool challis or coarse linen. No smaller. Their edges hand-rolled, then hand-stitched. Never should they match the neckwear. And contrary to popular myth, it’s linen, not silk, that is the most appropriate, year-around cloth.
Each is sartorially addressed and appropriately answered in a Limited Edition collection of Stinson R. Ely Bespoke Pocket Squares. Visually dramatic and noticeably bereft of basics, it unarguably ranks a dandy’s collection, exclusively. Bold, over sized graphics are powerfully executed. Vivid, if not flamboyant, color combinations pit the sledge hammer wallop of daringly adventurous brights against subtle neutrals.
Each in the collection’s near-50 different designs are Limited Editions. Their numbers count no than 12 per design. Some tally as few as one or two. All are entirely artisan hand-crafted in America. Each boast hand-fringed edges, an Old World design flourish borne in the mid-1800s, a fashion signature of Britannia’s manor borne, country gentlemen.