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Jan, 5 2024

How to Fold the Perfect Pocket Square

A close up of a yellow pocket square

The bride and groom have decided – they’re going with a formal dress code for their wedding. Immediately, you start to panic. You know that means you’re going to have to rent a tuxedo. That’s the easy part since you can just find the perfect fit at Generation Tux.

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But you’re also going to be expected to know how to fold a pocket square to go along with that tux, and that’s the part that has you scared because you’ve never done it before.

You don’t need to worry.

Pocket squares are easy to handle once you’ve gotten to grips with them, and they add an extra touch of flair to what could otherwise seem like an overly traditional tuxedo. Plus, you have several options when it comes to folding one, which you’ll discover as you read this article.

The Basics of Pocket Squares

Before getting to the business of folding a pocket square, you need to know a little bit more about this surprisingly important part of your tuxedo. After all, even the most expertly executed pocket square folds mean little if you’ve chosen the wrong square for your suit.

What Is a Pocket Square?

A pocket square is a small handkerchief that slots into the small pocket located on the breast of your suit or tuxedo. According to The Gentleman’s Gazette, they’ve been around since the 19th century, which is about when suits evolved from garments worn only during special occasions to everyday menswear.

Beyond that, there’s not a huge amount to say. For instance, the battle of formal vs. black tie doesn’t apply to pocket squares. While they’re typically associated with formal attire, they’re regularly worn during black tie events, too – a white pocket square is a common feature in the traditional black and white tuxedo. It is worth noting that pocket squares come in several materials – cotton, linen, and silk being the most common – which can impact your choice.

Choosing the Right Material

We can break the most common pocket square materials down into four categories:

  • Cotton – Cost-effective, easily ironable, and with stiff edges that maintain your fold, cotton is a strong choice for a pocket square. Just know that cotton squares crease easily, so you’ll need to iron one every time you use it.
  • Silk – For a luxurious look, few options beat silk. The material contrasts well against rougher materials, such as wool, and you won’t get a bulge in your pocket with silk. The only problem is that stains and even water will ruin this material.
  • Linen – Like cotton, linen offers rigid edges, as well as being supple enough for you to try different folds, all the while looking a dash more ornate. But also like cotton, creasing can become a problem.
  • Wool – Perhaps not the most traditional pocket square material, likely because it creates a bulge in your pocket, wool can still be a good choice if you’re looking to add some texture to a smooth suit.

That final mention of texture hints at what to look for when choosing a pocket square material. Ideally, you want to ensure the square doesn’t feature the same pattern as your tie – though it should complement the pattern – and consider choosing a square that has a different texture. For instance, if you have a woolen suit and tie, a silk pocket square offers a sleek contrast, making the square an interesting focal point for your suit.

Types of Pocket Square Folds

As the Nature Boy Ric Flair, a man who’s well known for styling and profiling, once said, “You gotta have a pocket square, I think.” Granted, that’s not the most elegant way to explain what makes a pocket square such an important accessory for a suit or tux. However, it does show that stylish men believe that the perfect pocket square completes your look, especially when following a formal dress code.

You just need to know how to fold a pocket square for a suit. Here are eight ways to do it.

The Presidential Fold

A close up of a white pocket square and boutonniere

Perhaps the most traditional of pocket handkerchief folding styles, the presidential fold is also one of the easiest to pull off. Just lay the square flat so it looks like a square – rather than a diamond – and follow these steps:

  1. Fold the right side over to meet the left side to create a rectangle.
  2. Grab the top corners of the rectangle and fold them down until they’re just above the bottom left and bottom right corners.
  3. Tuck the pocket square into your pocket with the folded side facing up.

Quick, easy, and elegant – perfect for somebody who doesn’t know how to fold pocket squares.

The Puff Fold

Puff folds are ideal if you want a more casual look, though they do require a few more steps than presidential folds:

  1. Lay your pocket square with its face up and pinch it in the center to lift the fabric a touch.
  2. Run two fingers down the length of the fabric as you elevate the center, stopping about three-quarters of the way down.
  3. Hold the square in this position and spread the sides out to create the “puff” look.
  4. Fold the fabric below your fingers up into the back of the square and place it in your pocket.

The One-Point, Two-Point, and Three-Point Folds

A man in a black tuxedo standing in the sunlight

If your event veers toward the formal, you’ll need a pocket handkerchief fold that suits the occasion. Enter the one-, two-, and three-point folds – all perfect choices for more formal events.

First, the one-point fold:

  1. Fold the square in half lengthwise to create a vertical rectangle.
  2. Fold the bottom half toward the top to create a square.
  3. Rotate that square to make a diamond, then fold it into a triangle.
  4. Fold the right tip of the triangle into the center, followed by the left tip, and flip the handkerchief around before placing it into your pocket.

If you’d prefer two points in your pocket square, the following steps allow you to make a two-point fold:

  1. Lay the square in a diamond shape and fold it in half, ensuring that the bottom corner of the square lays just off the top corner so you get two points.
  2. Fold the left-hand corner toward the right-hand corner to make a right-angled triangle.
  3. Take the right-hand corner and fold it over toward the left-hand corner.
  4. Fold the excess fabric onto the square, ensuring the peaks stick out the top and the square is the right size to fit your pocket.

And finally, you can triple your pleasure with the three-point fold:

  1. Lay your square down as a diamond and fold the bottom corner up to the top, positioning it just to the right of the top corner.
  2. Take the bottom-right-hand corner and fold it up toward the top two points, positioning it just to the left to create a trio of angled peaks.
  3. Fold the left-hand corner over to the right-hand side before folding the excess fabric back over so it’s in the middle.
  4. Place your fingers in the square’s center and fold the bottom half up toward your three points.
  5. Turn the square around, taking care to hold everything in place, and slide it into your pocket.

The Scallop Fold

If you’re looking for something unique – but still offering a dash of elegance – the scallop fold may be how to style a pocket square for you:

  1. Place the square on a flat surface so it looks like a diamond and pinch the bottom quarter, folding it to make a pleat.
  2. Under that pleat, pinch the fabric and create another fold to make a triangle.
  3. Holding your pleats together, turn the square anti-clockwise before switching it onto its back while the pleats are at the top.
  4. Fold the right corner down, just to the left of the square’s bottom point.
  5. Do the same with the left corner, only this time positioning it to the right of the bottom point.
  6. Fold the sides around the back, then tuck the bottom section up.
  7. Place the handkerchief in your pocket.

The Winged Puff Fold

With the winged puff, you’re folding a pocket handkerchief in a flashier style to ensure it stands out a little more than usual:

  1. Lay your square on a flat surface so the inside is facing up and looks like a diamond.
  2. Fold the top corner of the diamond to the bottom corner, then fold the left and right corners to the bottom.
  3. Flip the square so the folds are away from you.
  4. Fold the sides and bottom inward so the resulting shape fits into your jacket pocket. Leave the top tip intact.
  5. Place the square in your pocket and make any minor adjustments needed to achieve a perfect fit.

The Dunaway Fold

GQ Magazine calls the Dunaway a more “artsy” fold as it creates several peaks that lead to an almost floral effect:

  1. Lay the square on a flat surface, pinch the center, and lift it up.
  2. Use your other hand to run down the fabric and gather the four dangling corners together so it makes a tube that ends in a four-petal flower.
  3. Turn the shape 180 degrees while keeping the corners separated and in place.
  4. Press onto the square to make it flat and spread the peaks so they’re even.
  5. Fold the bottom third of the design up and tuck the square into your pocket.

Additional Tips and Considerations

A man in a black tuxedo

Now that you know how to fold a handkerchief for a pocket, here are a few final tips to ensure you not only choose the right pocket square but also position it properly.

Matching the Square to Your Outfit

Both your suit jacket and tie offer cues for you to follow when choosing a pocket square. Pick one that complements your tie’s pattern without matching it perfectly. For instance, a simple white handkerchief works well even when you have a tuxedo with a black bow tie.

Placing the Pocket Square

After spending so much time folding your pocket square, the last thing you want is for it to fall apart as you try to shove it into a jacket pocket. Start by measuring the folder square against your pocket. If it’s too large, you may need to refold, though you can sometimes get away with tucking more of the material into the back of the square.

When you’re ready to slide it in, keep a good grip on the folded edge using your finger and thumb, only releasing when the square is inside the pocket and held in place by the pocket itself.

When to Use Which Fold

You already have enough of a challenge on your hands trying to remember tuxedo part names without also having to think about which pocket square fold matches which event. So, the quick rule is that the fancier the fold, the better it is for casual events. For instance, a winged puff or Dunaway fold may not be suitable for a formal event where uniformity is the key. In those cases, a simple single-peak or presidential fold may be a better option.

Get the Right Tux for Your Pocket Square

A man in a navy suit

You now have several ways to fold a handkerchief, with each helping you look dapper when you’re dressed up in your suit or tux. Experiment with the different folds to get a better feel both for how each one works and which looks best for your intended style.

Now, you just have one thing left to do – get your hands on a tux or groom’s suit for a wedding.

Rather than buying, consider a tuxedo rental from Generation Tux. Beyond saving money, you’ll also receive many of the accessories you need – including a tie and pocket square – to complete your look without any fuss.

Now that you know how to fold a pocket square, you can move on to other topics:

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