Tag Archives: handkerchief

Tips for an awesome spring!

1 May

It’s May Day! That means that spring is here and it’s officially time to welcome the new season. Here are some easy and practical tips for a great spring!

Spring pollenspring apple blossoms

If you suffer from spring pollen allergies and find yourself sneezing and wiping your watering stinging eyes, are you taking the gentlemen’s approach?

Sneezing into your sleeve works if you’re in a cramped public space like a subway, but the best way to reign in your sneezes and pollen-induced tears is of course, the hankie.

Using a cotton or linen handkerchief to wipe your dripping orifices is the better and more elegant way (plus it’s easier on the environment). Find them in department stores or check vintage shops for old and interesting hankies!

Shoes

old shoes

If you’re the type of guy who wears the same shoe all year around, or if you have a spring collection that’s made its way out of storage, sit down and take a good look at them–what kind of condition are they in? Scuffed? Worn? Heels ground down? Spring is a great time to take your shoes to a shoemaker and have them cleaned up, or do it yourself.

I’m always telling men not to toss their old shoes because they are easily restored.  Have a look at this 7-minute video by British bootmaker, John Lobb, who shows the professional way to shine shoes–you’ll be astonished!

Besides shining, a shoemaker can re-heel or re-sole your shoes. Worn heels are unsightly and may put a damper on your confidence. Have your shoes redone to give yourself an instant boost!

Brighten and de-stink!vinegar bottle

After a while, anything made of fabric will absorb the smells around it, and this is not necessarily good news. I am a proponent of natural cleaning products, and gents, nothing beats vinegar for cleaning and removing odours. Using vinegar in your laundry brightens colours, renews drabness, and prevents static cling.

For stuff like socks, gym shirts, stained tea towels, and dish rags, get a stock pot or other large cooking vessel and fill with water. Add a cup of white distilled vinegar and bring to a rolling boil. Add your items, turn of the heat, and let soak overnight. Run through the wash and hang to dry. If you’re lucky enough to have a clothes line, hang outside in the sun to naturally deodourize and mildly bleach.

Other great vinegar tips from 1001 Uses for White Distilled Vinegar:

Remove perspiration odour and stains on clothing, as well as those left by deodorants by spraying full-strength white distilled vinegar on underarm and collar areas before tossing them into the washing machine.

Get cleaner laundry! Add about 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar to the last rinse. The acid in white distilled vinegar is too mild to harm fabrics, yet strong enough to dissolve the alkalies in soaps and detergents. Besides removing soap, white distilled vinegar prevents yellowing, acts as a fabric softener and static cling reducer, and attacks mold and mildew.

Eliminate manufacturing chemicals from new clothes by adding 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar to the water.

In the words of Robin Williams, “Spring is nature’s way of saying “let’s party!”. Preparing for the party takes work and energy, but you’ll feel great about your efforts, so get in there and enjoy!

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Dressing for (unbearably) hot weather

18 Jul
hot

Walking around in your undies may be the thing you want to do, but there are other alternatives.

It is a very hot week in Toronto and we’re walking around red-faced and wet with sweat. Weather this warm is uncomfortable for most people and dressing for it can be a challenge. Here are some tips for dressing in hellishly hot weather:

  • Air flow is very important in keeping cool – opt for loose-fitting clothing instead of tight clothing so there is some air circulation around the body;
  • Choose natural fibers like pure linen or one hundred percent cotton that are breathable;
  • Avoid polyester and other synthetics as they do not breathe. Polyester is made of fossil fuels (literally oil and gas) and is a finer yarn than a linen or cotton thread, giving a tighter weave that feels warmer because it does not allow air flow and traps perspiration – this can lead to stinky garments that stay stinky!
  • Even if you choose a cotton-polyester blend, the pure cotton is “watered down” by the synthetic which makes it stronger, but compromises the integrity of the cotton (i.e. breathability). Also, your poly-cotton shirt will wear faster because polyester tends to pill on the fabric surface,  giving an unsightly texture to a once smooth shirt, sock, or trouser;
  • If you are a denim-wearer, choose a lighter, thinner denim;
  • If you’re a man who sweats a lot, try wearing a sleeveless cotton undershirt under your collared shirt to absorb perspiration;
  • Wear light colours that reflect sunlight – dark colours absorb light and the heat that goes with it – shoes included;
  • If you’re in a suit or business casual, wear a tooled Oxford shoe that has holes to allow air flow to your feet;
  • Instead of going sockless (the perspiration from your feet will ruin the inside of your shoes), wear a short cotton sock that isn’t seen above your shoe – you should be able to find these in packages of three or six, giving you more bang for your buck;
  • Instead of 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 dab!

Finally, remember to wear your sunblock, sunglasses, drink lots of water, and stay in the shade!

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.

Hanky Panky

5 May

A silk square with a fine wool suit can look just as dashing as wearing a tie.

I’m working with a client who likes to “dress to the nines” out of respect for himself, his profession, and for his law clients. I was at his house recently and went through his closet full of dark suits and white shirts, his ties, and a fistful of pocket squares that were laying off to the side.

“James!” I said, “You’ve got to start integrating these pocket squares into your wardrobe,” explaining that a little splash of colour in his breast pocket can really sharpen up his suit, adding flair and personality to his look.

“But how do I match them to my ties?” lawyer James asked, “And how do I fold them?”

The pocket hanky is a common dilemma of the modern gent and I’d like to try to make things a little more clear so you can effortlessly polish yourself off with this simple yet statement-making accessory.

What is it?

First, let’s define this thing. A pocket square is the same thing as the handkerchief, hankie, hanky, silk, or puff, and is a square of fabric usually made of cotton, linen, or silk. It should be worn to express oneself, like a tie, and should compliment the rest of a man’s attire.

Sources differ in sartorial background and tradition,  so everyone has a slightly different opinion of when and where to wear which pocket puff to what occasion, but for our purposes, gentlemen, we’re going to keep it simple: add a pocket square when you want to be stylish, when you want to add interest to your jacket, and when you want to stand apart. A pocket square is a wonderful compliment to your suit or jacket.

A little history

Research shows that the first handkerchief originated with England’s King Richard II (1367 – 1400), who is said to have used a piece of cloth to wipe his nose. BBC’s London Life explains uses for handkerchiefs during times when taking snuff was popular. (Snuff is powdered tobacco sniffed up the nose – not sure why…) Often, snuff sellers would sell handkerchiefs to accompany the pulverized tobacco. You may be able to imagine what sniffing brown powder up one’s nose does to one’s nasal passages, so the hankies came in handy to brush the powder from the nose and to dab the brown mucous that was generated from taking snuff. (…yuck!)

Hankies were originally carried in a gent’s trouser pocket, intermingling with dirty coins and other bits, and later moved to the breast pocket when men’s two-piece suits (Sack Suits) became popular during the mid 19th century. It was at this time that the handkerchief became a fashion accessory more than a practical nose-wiper. Hankies have also been used as white flags of surrender and dropped as bait by women in the first half of the 20th century who wanted to attract a fella’s attention. (A gentleman would always pick up the lady’s hankie and return it to her.)

Handkerchiefs were largely replaced in the 1920s by Kleenex, or disposable hankies. However, proper woven hankies are much more stylish than ratty, throw-away paper products and casts a very good light on the user, suggesting elegance and care. A fun thing to do next time you’re in a vintage clothing store is to look at their collection of hankies and see if any tickle your fancy.

Match textures

When you want to add a square, you want to match textures, smooth with smooth, rough with rough. A woven cotton, linen, or cashmere hankie will go with a rough suit or jacket, like a tweed. The smoothness of a fine wool suit could take a cotton, linen, or silk pocket square, and a cotton suit for the summer would ask for a cotton hankie to echo the texture of that textile.

The very British 365 Style and Fashion Tips for Men suggests “white linen is the simplest choice for a pocket handkerchief as it goes with any business suit. Either fold it into a square, or push it loosely into your breast pocket.” James Bond, Dean Martin, JFK, and Cary Grant couldn’t agree more.

Colour and pattern

As our British reference states, “Your necktie and pocket handkerchief should never be the same colour. Do not be tempted by any tie and handkerchief sets on sale in the stores.” GQ stresses the same point, calling the matching tie and hankie route “tackier than a matching shirt-and-tie combo,” adding that men can find “colors, stripes, and other decorative elements in hankies,” so there are lots of choices to play with. Sometimes, you may find a suit where the designer has lined the breast pocket with the same fabric as the jacket, which can be pulled up to act as a built-in coordinating puff.

When thinking of handkerchief colour, choose one that enhances or picks up the colours of your suit, shirt, and tie, but be careful not to repeat a colour more than twice (i.e. a burgundy shirt with a burgundy tie with a burgundy square would be too much).

Matching patterns can be tricky, so with your solid-coloured shirt, try to match one large pattern with one smaller pattern in your tie and square, coordinating the colours in each. Our 365 Tips suggests wearing “a dark blue tie with red stripes to go with a dark red paisley handkerchief or a blue silk one with tiny white dots.” For those creative fellas, this can be quite a fun exercise, so start playing with your wardrobe and see what you can come up with.

Folding

365 Style Tips warns,  “Never be tempted to use a ready-folded dress handkerchief, or one with just a triangular point. It would be better to do without one at all.” So this you must learn to do on your own, men, but there is no need to feel intimidated. Below are some easy folds to start you off:

Simple square: Fold hankie into quarters and insert it into your pocket. If your hankie falls down out of sight, try folding it as a rectangle and insert the long part into your pocket.

Simple puff: Lay square on a table, then pick up in the middle, letting the fabric bunch in your fingers. Insert into pocket with corners down, pull up to arrange and fill the width of the pocket top.

Corners up: Lay square on a table and pick up by the middle. Insert puff side down in pocket. The corners of your pocket square should stick up and out of the top of the pocket. Arrange for width.


Hankie thoughts

–> For my client who dresses formally in suit and tie at his office, a splash of colour on his breast is very appropriate. Depending on the day’s mood and who he’ll be meeting that day, will he choose a solid lilac-coloured silk, the brown checkered square, or a traditional white linen handkerchief?

–> If you’re a smaller man, do beware of making too much visual fuss with the square and the tie. Be aware that large patterns can overpower a short man, so keep one pattern quiet or choose a solid-colour.

–> I’m always a fan of a coloured shirt under a suit with a pocket square and no tie. To me,  this looks really sharp, telling the world about a gent’s sense of style, his confidence, and his character.

There is no doubt that the pocket hankie adds polish and interest to a man in a suit and as a recent client pointed out, “the square really brings the whole visual together”.

So gents, in your quest for style, reach for a hankie not only to give yourself a visual polish, but also to play the part of the gentleman, ready to dab tears away, or wipe lipstick from your collar.