Pocket Square Musings
Complementing but Never Matching: The Musings of a Pocket Square User (with help from Elliott Rampley of Rampley & Co.)
Article by Adrian Peel
I have a theory that a lady’s reaction upon seeing a man walking down the street in a well cut suit – ideally complete with pocket square – is similar to that of a mild-mannered man’s were he to see an attractive lady out and about in lingerie. When approaching, the lady, perhaps not used to seeing such elegance and not wanting to appear ‘obvious,’ tends to avert her eyes skyward or glare at the pavement.
Once engaged in conversation, however, a lady more often than not instantly fixes her gaze on – or at least takes a quick, inquisitive glance at – the small yet game-changing accessory, usually made of cotton, silk, wool or linen, poking out of the gentleman in question’s suit jacket pocket.
Folded in a variety of elaborate and less elaborate ways, depending on the wearer’s personal preference (though I’ve heard some people say “just stuff it in there”), and available in countless colour combinations and patterns, the square can be a wonderful way of adding something extra to an already elegant ensemble.
The main rule when it comes to this pivotal item of clothing is that said piece of cloth should complement the tie, but the two should never match. I have also read that ideally they should never be made from the same material either as that looks too “naff.”
I’m not too sure about this one, though, as I’ve seen men wear a silk tie paired with a silk handkerchief – of a different colour or pattern – before and to me it doesn’t look that bad…
Anyway, to get a better idea about this and similar matters of an equally concerning nature, I put a few questions to Elliott Rampley of quality, London-based pocket square merchants Rampley & Co. I have been a regular pocket square user since 2010 but feel I still have quite a lot to learn.
Okay, so the pocket square should never match the tie, but is it true that ideally it should also be made of a different material?
I don’t think it’s necessarily an absolute must to have a different material here – it’s certainly not as bad as having a perfect colour match between the square and tie! However, that said, I do like to mix things up where possible to add a bit of texture more than anything, but also a point of difference.
Personally, I like to wear quite an extravagant square, often silk based as I’m a very big fan of our silk collections around fine art, and then wear a much more reserved tie in terms of colour and material – material such as silk grenadine or a wool/silk blend.
Which is your favourite pocket square fold? Does it depend on the occasion?
The official line is that it definitely depends on the occasion as well as how formal your outfit is, but for me I’m very stuck in my ways and am a big fan of the puff fold. So for all the intricate folds I’m able to do, I still stick with the very casual approach of having it stuffed into my pocket.
Not to say that there aren’t a few twists in there to secure the shape and a lot of post-fold tweaks, but I’ve always liked the finish of the puff fold. Plus I’m so often asked to show people the square I’m wearing that I often have to refold it multiple times a day!
Sometimes, deciding on a colour can be a difficult task. Which colour squares in your opinion tend to go with most outfits?
The very best here would have to be a plain white square. Very traditional and often quite formal, wearing a plain white square in a flat fold with that little line of white across your pocket can be worn with almost any colour suit and in any situation, whether it be a wedding or a normal day in the office.
If I had to pick a colour outside of this, it would be a darker red. I find this very versatile regardless of the jacket and this may explain why our best-selling squares are those with heavy reds. These also complement a dark blue or black blazer (a wardrobe staple for most people) very well.
Where do you stand as far as seasons are concerned? Should woollen pocket squares be avoided in the summer and linen pocket squares put away for the winter?
I actually think this should come down to the personal style of the individual. It’s correct that you’re less likely to see a heavier woollen square in the summer, but I think if you have a nice colour combination and it suits the jacket then you should absolutely go for it.
We’ve always tried to ensure that any squares we design can be worn all year round and it’s great to see the huge variety of outfits, locations and climates they get worn in. I often see people walking around London, or at international shows, in the midst of summer wearing a three piece suit and so can’t see that wearing a woollen pocket square in that environment is any more strange…
Please tell us about the pocket squares you sell. What makes them unique? Which tend to be your biggest sellers?
We want to ensure that every single product we sell tells a story. Designers have been creating the most beautiful scarves for women since the 1930s, with brands such as Hermès, and we felt this was the male equivalent and a massively under-serviced market.
Most retailers will sell paisley or polka dot or flat colour, but we wanted to be much more creative than this. We work with some of the most magnificent art galleries in the world to put fine art on to squares, as well as creating designs based on sketches by 19th Century ornithologists and everything in between. Our best seller is still the Death of Major Peirson, a beautiful square depicting the Battle of Jersey in 1781 that we produced in collaboration with the Tate in London.
How did you come to start your business? Is all your merchandise designed ‘in house?’
As mentioned above, the business was started out of a desire to create something that we couldn’t find from other brands we tried. I’d always loved pocket squares personally and my business partner and I were very keen to work in such a creative space with such a beautiful product.
We both had digital marketing backgrounds as well and so this has helped us get really good traction internationally. Yes, all merchandise is designed in house – as much of it as possible by myself. I still love creating products that are enjoyed by our customers around the globe.
Do you think more men are wearing pocket squares now than, say, 20 years ago?
Definitely. I think social media has opened up men to an amazing community of people who are happy to dress well and share their experiences and advice. It is definitely less taboo now to really take care of yourself as a man and want to stand out. From the analysis we’ve done of the market over the last 10 years, there is definitely an increase in both demand and sales from around the world.
Why should men fill that empty jacket pocket? What does this particular accessory bring to a gentlemen’s overall appearance?
It gets you noticed. Ever since I’ve started wearing one, and in particular since I’ve started wearing our own products that are slightly more interesting visually, people have pointed it out and asked me about it.
To then be able to take it out and show them a beautiful piece of art and explain the premise behind the painting and history of the artist and institution behind it, people are always truly fascinated. Not only does it become a great talking point, but you’ll be remembered!