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The modern square

That little piece of fabric can set you apart.

December 30, 2007|Monica Corcoran | Times Staff Writer

When it comes to accessories for men, a pocket square is the sartorial exclamation point. Unlike ties and cuff links, it can never really be considered a necessity. Rather, that peek of fabric above the heart -- both debonair and cocksure -- can announce, "well-dressed man." Even better, folding a pocket square is easier than tying a bowline knot.

Recently, Terrence Howard and Adrian Grenier took divergent paths to wearing a pocket square. Howard, at the announcement of the Screen Actors Guild nominations, paired a classic, white linen one with his midnight blue, pinstripe suit. Grenier chose a more modern statement, with a splashy red kerchief that matched his tie and bloomed from the pocket like a prom night boutonniere.

There are a few pocket square faux pas. To learn how to avoid them, we chatted with John Carroll of Beverly Hills menswear shop, Carroll & Co. Back in the day, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and even Cary Grant popped in for their wardrobe staples -- including pocket squares.

Do men fear pocket squares?

"They shouldn't. There is really no right or wrong way to wear one, and it's an added touch that sets you apart from everyone else."

But there must be some rules. Do you match it to your tie or socks?

"The pocket square should be the same color scheme as the tie. You should also match the fabric. You wear a silk pocket square with a silk tie."

What about a linen handkerchief as pocket square?

A linen pocket square should be white, in my opinion. It's the easiest one to wear with a suit and doesn't need to match the fabric. But it's too dressy for just a sports jacket."

How about a pocket square for a tuxedo?

"I like the white linen folded in triangle peaks because that looks the most elegant and polished."

What is the most modern way to wear one?

"Lately, I have seen men wearing them coming out of the pockets boldly. Almost half out. It's much more showy."

Name the biggest mistake men make when wearing one.

"If the square is too small, it falls down into the pocket and you can't see it. You just have a bulge."

How about women who wear pocket squares, such as Hillary Clinton?

"It's OK, as long as she doesn't overdo it. A scarf and a pocket square are too much. One or the other works best."

When did you wear your first pocket square?

"It was my junior prom in L.A. I wore a burgundy velvet jacket with a white shirt, bow tie and white pocket square. Keep in mind it was the late '70s."

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monica.corcoran@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

HOW TO BOLDLY FOLD

START: Unfold the square and pinch it at the center. Remember, silk pocket square with silk tie.

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STEP 2: Hold up the fabric at the center and let it drape in soft, natural folds.

STEP 3: Still holding the center of the square, use the other hand to smooth the folds downward.

STEP 4: Loosely drape the fabric in half, between the index and third fingers.

STEP 5: Tuck the folded square inside the pocket, making sure it shows at the top.

STEP 6: The modern style square is often worn boldly, almost half out of the pocket.

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