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Making the case for: A patterned pocket square

Making the case for: A patterned pocket square

"People really overthink the pocket square. It's just a tiny bit of pattern added to give personality or a celebratory feel to your usual blazer. And it can really finish an outfit—making you look polished and put together.  

"That said, there's also a very fine line when it comes to this particular accessory (and, come to think of it, others, like socks). While a pocket square can lend interest to your outfit, it can also err into kooky novelty territory. There are two tricks to staying firmly on the former side:

1. Ensure your pocket square is either patterned or awash with very bright colours—but never both. 

2. Choose a small pattern—one that can't be made out from farther away than a metre or two.

"If you go the patterned route, my stand-by, all-time-favourite place to turn is Paul Smith. They do patterns that are as charming and personality-filled as they are sophisticated—a very rare combination—and the materials (such as silk and linen) are of a quality that will never look tacky. If Paul Smith's pocket squares aren't quite within your budget, there are lots of less expensive options. Just avoid anything shiny: that can turn a perfectly nice pattern a bit brash. Other than that, really only one rule applies: never match a patterned tie to a pocket square.

"There's a time and a place for a patterned pocket square, and some situations where it absolutely doesn't work. Black or white tie requires a white pocket square, and that might also be your safest bet at a formal office. If your work is slightly less buttoned-up, pattern need not be out of bounds: a black-and-white gingham, for example, is conservative without feeling boring or too safe."

Thread stylist Millie Rich