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The Good Life

Silk Handkerchiefs

| By Jack Bettridge | From Tiger Woods, May/June 2008

I love fine neckties, but right about this time of year I get a little too hot under the collar to be choking myself with such a yoke all summer. Yet I loath to relinquish that splash of color and silkiness that a tie affords when I'm wearing a suit or a jacket. That is why silk handkerchiefs—or pocket squares, if you must—are one of my favorite accessories for spring and summer.

A silk handkerchief without a tie says you're not so buttoned up that you are willing to stand on ceremony and swelter on a hot day, but you're also not ready to let decorum go to hell completely. The best part is that it is nearly impossible to get it wrong.

You match a handkerchief to what you're wearing only in the loosest sort of way. The pattern is almost immaterial. Paisleys go with checks, checks with stripes, dots with plaids and so on. If a rule exists, it is to match bold patterns to tighter ones, so that one thing stands out: your handkerchief, your shirt or your jacket. Colors are similarly casually paired. Have the handkerchief reference one or more of the colors in the rest of what you're wearing. Exact matches come off as too thought-out and therefore nerdy. Here we placed handkerchiefs from Beretta and Seaward & Stern (those pictured with blue piping) in a cashmere jacket from D'Avenza.

Arranging your handkerchief takes none of the Boy Scout knotting skills of a necktie. Of course, you could fold it into ordered tips, but that defeats the air of insouciance that the hanky is striving to achieve. Besides, silk doesn't hold well to the sort of pressed regimentation that a cotton handkerchief will. Better to loosely arrange the corners together so that they can peek out of the breast pocket like petals on a flower, possibly even flopping out, as if haphazardly shoved into place. Another approach is to tuck the tips away and pull a puff of the center of the square out of the pocket like a little plume. Either way, the point is not to be too studied, because after all, it's summer and the dressing is easy.

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