I tried something of a Fashion Experiment recently. There was nothing risky about it and no one got hurt. The stage for this experiment was set in my attending a meeting. No, it had nothing to do with financial investments or hostile takeovers, so I did not have to channel Gordon Gekko in any way, thankfully.
A few weeks ago I attended this pretty important meeting held in a room that personified its importance, which was further amplified by the people who filled it. I took it a little easy with my attire, knowing that I didn’t want to be too fashion-forward, precious, or out of touch in any way with what we were about to discuss. In other words: a suit wasn’t needed. I made sure to match well-fitted dark denim with a neatly pressed dress shirt and a thin black tie; draping over it all was a charcoal grey blazer. There was nothing stuffy or “dangerously fashionable” about my outfit. (Of course, they didn’t see the bright striped colored socks! See “Sox In Socks” for more on that…)
I was met warmly. Not because of what I wore, but who I was. How I handled myself. As a matter of fact, I was even scolded for what I wore: “Next time you don’t have to wear a tie.”
Indeed, my lesson was two-fold: (1) Know your audience; and (2) Know how to dress up without looking dressed up.
Enter the pocket square.
A few days ago, I attended that same meeting. This time, I traded my grey blazer for a navy one (although admittedly dressier, as was part of my Experiment,) and dropped the tie in exchange for a pocket square. This was my favorite one: a simple square fabric made of white with blue dots and a red border around its edge. I draped it over my hand before I tucked it gently but not too carefully into my blazer pocket.
I buttoned only one button of my blazer and stepped in to the room (please tell me you read “Sometimes, Always, Never. Ever, ever, ever”). The reception I received was better than the time before. I proved my smarts by contributing, but I offered something even better in their eyes with my chosen form of dress. I allowed them to feel comfortable and able to move easily around me.
The pocket square does this. Either way, you’re dressed sharply even with denim. But what the pocket square does is allow a sense of being dressed up without the obviousness of a tie, which we all know others will take as a sign of you being too overdressed and may even find intimidating. And we don’t want to be any of that, do we?
I can tell you how to fold a pocket square – though my favorites are the Square-Ended Fold and a more relaxed version of a Puffed Fold – but I will leave that up to folks like Brooks Brothers. As long as it works for you and becomes your sense of fashion, then it will translate well across to others.
Here’s to hoping I see some more pocket squares, gents. (Yes, a few of my own collection are in the photo above…)