The Pocket Square is the New Tie

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“You’re wearing a tie, are you?” my friend asked. There was no surprise in his voice. He knew my proclivities regarding clothing. There was, however, a crackle of concern.

It was a Saturday night. We were going out in a smart district of London. To me, a tie seemed appropriate. I informed my friend, who was tieless, that he was underdressed. “Yeah, but” he began “no one wears ties anymore, do they.”

“And what would you wear?”I asked him, regarding his blazer and cord ensemble, accented only by a coloured shirt and a pocket square puff.

It was a pointless question of mine. His chosen ensemble was as far as he would go, and not just on a Saturday night. “I don’t really wear ties any more, unless I have to.”

‘Unless I have to’ is the sad subtitle to the tie’s decline. Although I always hope for a complete revival, for all men to take pleasure in decorating their person, to enrich their palette with a superior arch of fine silk, the sad truth is that most men nowadays think that the tie is unnecessary. Even the chic gentlemen of the town, those blessed with a splatter of sprezzatura, often dispense with the tie. But why? How could these knights of style do without such a long-standing friend? How can they combat indifference and inelegance without a ‘blade’?

The answer is simple; the pocket square.

The resurgence of the pocket square was always seen to be an advance for men’s style. A return to the days of accepting gentlemen with feminine gimcracks, a rejection of the utilitarian and an embracement of all that is splendid and superfluous.

However, the square is a sneaky devil. Despite the early alliance with the tie, and the natural pairing of the two, the reality is that, for many, it was a replacement for the tie, not a partner. And it’s not hard to see why. A man can still cut a figure of casual elegance with an artistic puff in his jacket pocket, and now that they have become so commonplace, even the fearful are more prepared to stuff in a square of silk than knot a tie.

This is not a usurping which I rejoice in reporting. In fact, I am rather disappointed that the pocket square’s return has weakened the hold of the necktie rather than strengthen it. That a man can now be considered ‘overdressed’ for a business meeting by wearing an open-necked shirt with a polka dot handkerchief, says a lot about the demise and of the necktie and an increasing desire to de-formalise every aspect of clothing.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. Jano says:

    Will agree with you here, especially since I am out in Chicago. Seems most men will only wear a tie when they feel it is required. Even when everyone else is still fairly dressed up (suit/no-tie), it is brought to my attention that I am wearing a tie. I do enjoy wearing ties, but will stray from them pending my mood (tie, loosened tie, or totally tie-less).

  2. Nicholas says:

    I love ties but infrequently wear them because California is so informal. Some times it’s nice to not draw attention to myself when I go out.

    Still, I find it puzzling in a business setting that men don’t rejoice in full business attire. There’re days that I wish I was required to wear a suit to work. Just because I enjoy that aspect of style so much.

  3. Mark says:

    @Nicholas I couldn’t agree more. I wear a tie and coat every day because I enjoy it, and I work in a high-tech company, where I am pretty much the only one dressing this way.

  4. Juan Manuel says:

    By the end of 2011 I made a list of “to do” things and one of them was using ties more frecuently. That desition obviously forced me to use more suits or blazers and better shoes. The consecuence of that has been that during 2012 I have been had more quality and quantity in my relation with girls.It is true that women always watch your shoes so they can have an idea of your character, but ties send messagees about your aproach to life, in a ludic and subtle way.

  5. Rob Michael says:

    First it was hats. Now it is ties that have become expendable. What’s next. Socks? Sadly, another sign of the decline of the West.

  6. David V says:

    The answer to ” You’re wearing a tie?” is ” Of course I am.”

  7. Jano says:

    @David V, good response.

  8. Steve says:

    I get “are you going to a wedding ?”, and “oh you didn’t need to dress up for me! Haha! ” or “what’s with the tie?” Or….
    But it’s true that a properly cut suit is a turn on to women with taste (but it has to be a well tailored suit – an ill fitting suit and cheap tie are a turn off!)

  9. Fonda says:

    the tie for me is a signature of my particular code of dress…I also enjoy preparing the knot etc. so the whole exercise for me is one of ritual for the day. I dress for myself and I enjoy the feeling of the tie at my collar. Having said that I still enjoy the site of a well dressed gent with a pocket square minus a tie where it is done with thought.

  10. Going tieless even here in metro New York is the new norm. Right or wrong, it is reality for most guys. The pocket square gives you a vehicle to impose some flair and complete the outfit however. My favorite summer outfit is a polo with jeans, teamed up with a linen or classic navy blazer. A pocket square in a complementary pattern or color to the shirt will make you look dressed and appropriate for work, dinner with friends, and most other venues of an active lifestyle.

  11. Black says:

    I like to do my own thing. When it comes to style and style preceeds money. My mentor always told me “When in doubt, always dress up. You can dress-down on the fly, but you can’t do that the other way around”.

    So I say wear the pocket square AND the tie; you can always take the tie off or loosen it. At least you’re prepared.

  12. When I worked for Management Consulting firm one of my bosses would ALWAYS wear a tie, every day. Clients often commented on how well dressed he was and that they never saw him without a tie. This really increased their confidence levels in everything he did and said, and it was amazing to see how they would act differently around him – more formal and professional. The tie really does have a place in the modern business setting, and to be honest, I would rather see a professional person overdressed than underdressed.