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The A-Z of handkerchiefs

Published on May 1, 2018

The A-Z of handkerchiefs

For everything you’ve ever wanted to know about hankies.

A – Ahh choo – Hankies are perfect for hayfever season when tissues just won’t cut it for those consistent and irritating sneezing bouts.

B – Blow ones nose – Hankies are undeniably useful for blowing ones nose particularly for hayfever sufferers. Not only are they less wasteful than tissues, but are convenient and feel better on a sore nose and they sure beat other less hygienic options available.

C – Casual handkerchief fold – A casual way to fold a pocket square (AKA pocket handkerchief) and add a personal touch to your business attire or blazer jacket. Also known as the ‘puff fold’, because of its voluminous look and lack of symmetry.

D – Don Draper – This leading character from Mad Men knows a thing or two about style and that means always pairing his well-cut suit with a perfectly folded pocket square.

E – Environmentally friendly – All those tissues that we simply throw away or flush down the toilet contribute to the destruction of virgin forests. Hankies on the other hand can be used, washed and reused over and over and over again.

F – Frank Sinatra – A big fan of the pocket square, often bright orange which was his favourite colour.

G – Glasses cleaner – Handkerchiefs have a multitude of uses, one of which is cleaning filthy specs or sunnies.

H – Hayfever – A handkerchief is a hayfever sufferers’ best friend with all those runny noses, watery eyes and constant sneezing. It’s a much better alternative to carrying multiple packs of wasteful tissues.

I – Initials – There was a time when a monogrammed handkerchief was all the rage and often given as a wedding gift. Luckily this trend is coming back into fashion around the world!

J – John F Kennedy – Often seen with an unassuming white handkerchief in his breast pocket.

K – Kleenex – The introduction of disposable tissues by Kleenex caused the demise of handkerchiefs in the early 20th century as they were deemed to be more hygienic.

L – Linen – A popular handkerchief fabric.

M – Marie-Antoinette – According to legend, the 18th century French queen is to thank for the pocket sized handkerchief we know today. She deemed that a square handkerchief was more aesthetically pleasing so her husband King Louis XVI ordered that all hankies should have lengths equal to their width.

N – Napkin – Hankies are handy for wiping your mouth or face in emergency situations (ie. there are no actual napkins around) and can act as a make-do napkin. Grandparents are often most well-known for this!

O – One corner up fold – A simple and elegant way to fold a pocket square suitable for business attire to formal black tie events.

P – Pocket square – A handkerchief is known as a pocket square when it is used as an accessory to a suit ie. in the left breast pocket. These are purely decorative and not intended for hygiene purposes like blowing ones nose.

Q – Queen Elizabeth – The queen who reigned during the 16th century was a big fan of the handkerchief, though not just any old cotton material. HRH was known for her handkerchiefs embroided with silver or gold thread.

R – Roman Empire – Handkerchiefs were common place among the noble in the Roman empire. They were used to shield the face or mouth and wipe the sweat off one’s brow. Roman games also began with the drop of a lady’s hanky and were waved by spectators to show appreciation.

S – Shakespeare – The handkerchief was central to the demise of Desdemona in Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ and Othello himself.

T – Three-corner up fold – Also known as the ‘crown fold’ because the corners stick up out of the breast pocket resembling the shape of a crown. Takes time to master but adds a sophisticated touch to any suit.

U – Update one’s outfit – A pocket handkerchief is an inexpensive way to update a well-worn suit.

V – Vintage hankies – Collecting vintage lady’s hankies makes for a wonderful DIY project – you could sew them into quilts, tablecloths or pillowcases, use them as doilies or wrap small gifts.

W – Wipe ones brow – Carrying a handkerchief around might be useful for times when you need to dab your forehead on a hot day.

X – (30) X (30) – Typical measurements for a man’s hanky. A woman’s is usually a little smaller (around 22cm2).

Y –(The) Yellow Handkerchief – An independent film with Kristen Stewart, William Hurt and Eddie Redmayne.

Z – Zigzag Cotton Lace Edge Hankie – A stylish handkerchief to add to your collection.


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