The Difference Between Handkerchiefs and Pocket Squares


Lots of people confuse handkerchiefs with pocket squares.  Above is a handkerchief.  Below is a pocket square.


Aside from the stylishness, there are many other differences.  Think of it this way: handkerchiefs are for function, pocket squares are for aesthetics.

A handkerchief might have a doily looking edge, or perhaps even some designs, but it’s really meant to stay in your pocket and hidden.  Which is strange, right?  I mean, pocket square has the word pocket in it.

Pocket squares are meant just for jacket pockets, and they are meant to pop out and catch attention.

Handkerchiefs, on the other hand are meant for dirty jobs and are meant to be washed and reused.

Are you a big guy who sweats?  Then a handkerchief is perfect to pull out of your pocket and wipe down your face.  It’s always awkward when a big guy is talking during work or elsewhere and he starts sweating uncontrollably.  We get it, it’s uncontrollable body-wise, but with a handkerchief you’re able to actually control the situation and appear suave at the same time.


Heck, even medium and small sized guys sweat in suits.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have an instant solution on hand?

Not only that, since most people do not carry handkerchiefs, it pops you up a social notch or two when you bring it out during a useful situation.

If your woman cries?  Wipe the tears with the handkerchief.  If her mascara is smeared and she is digging through her purse for a napkin?  Handkerchief.


New fathers will need a handkerchief to clean up spills and spit ups.  People who frequently get smudges and stains on their hands can use them to give a cleaner appearance.

In fact, getting a large quantity of inexpensive handkerchiefs is ideal, so that if you hand it to someone and tell them to keep it, you make a far better impression.  You can find them on Amazon in packs that total less than $1 each.  So, not only will they be reusable, but on the rare occasion you hand them out for keeps, you are making a great impression for a very small cost.

Besides, you do not want their sweat or tears or spills put back in your pocket anyways.

Since handkerchiefs are hidden and are more tools than anything else, they stay hidden until they are required.  Since they are a tool, it really does not matter much what you are wearing either.  You can be wearing jeans or khakis, or even sweatpants.  You are fixing a problem with handkerchiefs, so your solution is appreciated regardless of your personal presentation.

Pocket squares on the other hand?  They are meant to be shown off.

Pocket squares only go in one pocket however: the jacket pocket.  Oftentimes in our subscription boxes we will include a tie and pocket square together.

Pocket squares are a great way to accent your style with some color.

Can you use a pocket square to double down as a handkerchief?  We do not recommend it, but if it is an emergency and you do not care about losing the pocket square, sure.

Pocket squares are likely to be stained by cleaning messes however.  Sometimes the stains do not come out very well when you wash them.  If this is the case, you do not want to wear that pocket square ever again.  It is the equivalent of wearing a white shirt with a big coffee stain on it.

Pocket squares are often made of silky smooth materials that are not very good at cleaning things up, too.  These materials also are not meant for regular washing machine cycles either and will likely get ruined or have their edges frayed.

Does that clear things up?  Let us know here or on Facebook what questions you have.

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One thought on “The Difference Between Handkerchiefs and Pocket Squares

  1. Pingback: Germaphobes on the go: 3 accessories you need that you probably have not considered | The Loaded Vault's Blog

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