In my recent article on the velvet bow tie, I wrote of the antipathy of an acquaintance towards what Wilde famously referred to as the “only link between Art and Nature” – the buttonhole. What was once worn by all who could afford it is now merely an eccentric habit of a tiny few; spotting buttonholed gentleman on the streets should become a sport, so needle-like are these men in the haystacks of society. It is partly because of this paucity of posies that gentlemen are reticent to adorn themselves with something so feminine. Fashion has proven that it can play its part in sartorial arm-twisting; pink shirts and pocket squares are testament to this, so I have no doubt that should future runways be awash with carnations, the trickle-down effect will see large scale adoption.
However, there will be those to whom wearing a flower on a daily or even weekly basis is but an inconvenient expense. And the inconvenience can be considerable. You’ll be pointed at, asked “where the wedding is” and possibly insulted by passing white-van men with taunts of “Poofy bastard!” and “Big girl’s blouse!” Some are resilient and sufficiently single-minded to ignore such slings and arrows. But, as Noel Coward might once have sung: “Others will consider them simply too unpleasant to bear, however much they privately approve of ‘la boutonniere.’”
The solution for the flower-fearful is to adopt some kind of floral substitute, one which is attractive but less conspicuous. The aforementioned pocket square, that most useless of useful adornments, is common enough but it is normally worn very plainly and timidly. Many wearers only allow the merest hint of folded cotton; a tiny rectangular star in the dark galaxy, the TV fold is the style for beginners. Others are fond of the single point or, as I call it, the ‘napkin’ – a slightly more adventurous triangular mountain peak whilst some have moved on to the 3 and four pointed folds. The more slapdash and artistic ‘pocket stuff’, basically a more careless and full-blooded version of the reverse ‘pouf’, is becoming more popular as pocket square veterans seek to differentiate themselves from the masses and this style is even beginning to spawn its own variations. The ‘pocket flower’ is my favourite of the ‘stuffs’ and it is so deliciously simple to create.
Imagine, if you will, the layered petals of a bloom. Hold the centre of your square in your hand and close your fingers together; you will see the ends tightening up against each other, replicating an open flower. Stuff this into your pocket, allow for plenty of unruly shape, and you have the effect of wrinkled petals. It works best with silk, particularly in popular floral colours like pink, pale yellow and deep red and those with contrast-colour edges, and needs well-rolled edges and an extra large surface area to generate the ‘puff’ required.