Dabbing like a gent

12 Jul

A client recently asked me what he should do when sweat runs into his eyes on a hot and humid summer day.

“Good question,” I said, “there is no reason that a gentleman shouldn’t do as a gentlewoman would on a hot day – use a hankie.”

I pulled out my embroidered scarlet vintage hankie and showed him what I do with it when I find beads of sweat rolling down my face: dab. Simply dab.

Using an absorbent linen or cotton handkerchief to take up the sweat is a much nicer alternative to wiping one’s forehead with a sleeve or the back of your hand. Using a hankie is politer and much more stylish.

In Style & The Man, Alan Flusser, a permanent member on the international best-dressed list, writes of the pocket handkerchief:  “Immediate availability has always been a requirement for any handkerchief; the user must have ready access to it if he is to head off that unexpected sneeze before it becomes a source of embarrassment, mop up the spilled champagne before it flows into the lap of a guest, or perform other social niceties.”

As Mr. Flusser reminds us, the practical handkerchief must not be confused with the dress handkerchief that graces the breast pocket of a jacket. This workable handkerchief, also known as a pocket handkerchief, is meant to be stored in your back trouser pocket, as Flusser says, but if this is not possible, I’m sure no one would mind if you kept your hankie in an outside jacket pocket or if the fit allows, the front trouser pocket.

In the old days, a proper gent would always carry a hankie for nose-blowing or mopping the brow on a hot day. I remember my grandfather always had a linen hankie in is pocket and kept a drawer full of handkerchiefs because he bought them in packets of three. These are still readily available in men’s furnishings departments. For you groovier types, seek out vintage stores for cool, old-fashioned hankies or search for them online.

Random hankie tips:

  • Men’s hankies tend to be plainer with straight or rolled hems; women’s hankies are more colourful and often have lace or edging on hems;
  • For denim or sporty days, carry a colourful bandana, but go with a plainer, quieter hankie at the office – either way, hankies are a great way to express yourself;
  • At the end of the day, toss your hankie in the wash or rinse under the tap, otherwise you’ll have a soggy wad to deal with.

For more handkerchief info, see the Hanky panky post, and for more info about combating perspiration, check No need to sweat it.

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4 Responses to “Dabbing like a gent”

  1. Dr David Ellis July 12, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    In the summer, many people can perspire from their foreheads especially during exercise such as tennis or even golf. WE have patients coming to us for Botox treatment on their forehead skin to stop forehead sweating.

    • Leah Morrigan July 12, 2012 at 10:46 am #

      Thanks Dr. Ellis! Gents, if a hankie won’t cut it, resort to professional treatment.

  2. modelsofdiseases July 13, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    Interesting as always…During surgeries excesive sweating is a problem. My cousin is a neurosurgeon and has a nurse dedicated only to help him and the team with this process.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Dressing for (unbearably) hot weather | In the Key of He - July 18, 2013

    […] using your sleeve or the back of your hand to wipe the sweat from your brow, add a little style and use a handkerchief to […]

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