Thursday, September 21, 2006

The basics of basic civilization

Gentle Reader,

Those among you who've assiduously followed my career, know I am verging on mania or disorder when it comes to appropriate menswear. As -- apologies to Jimmy Buffett -- the son of a son of a tailor, these are occupational hazards, you understand. Still, often enough, men (or those women in their lives who shop for them) will ask me for my views on how to enhance the level of startorial splendor exhibited, without going utterly nuts and getting custom Trafalgar suspenders or something equally deranged. I say my bit and they are invariably disappointed.

"If you wish to be considered a stylishly dressed man," I intone "you simply, absolutely MUST wear a pocket square."



You could make weathervanes spin from the dejected sighs which accompany that innocent, pleasant statement. For those of us with a Jesuit education (or its equivalent), it's just like that bit from Scripture that went something like this: "But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful." It is not as if I have advocated Mr. X saunter about in a celluloid dickey or Mr. Y wear a snood and multicolored crinolines. It's a square of fabric! This was a pretty hopeless, lonely road to travel. Until this last year. My long-suffering wife and I had gone up from our for-all-intents-and-purposes-tropical home into the teeth of the vaunted Chicago tundra to attend a gala hosted by Poppy*. While decanted at Mme. Poppy's table, I noticed several--a minority to be sure, but still in appreciable numbers--of the gentlemen within eyeballing distance had pocket squares! Progress! Emerald City, at last at last!

And not just a thin white stripe of linen peeking out, either. While nobody had the diablerie to disport with a hand-rolled Irish linen in the intricate-yet-dashing four-point fold, some had puffs of white cotton, and there was one veritable plume of silk issuing from a certain gentleman's upper pocket. Color me impressed. In fact, at our (i.e. Poppy's) table, the pocket squared outnumbered the squareless by something like 4:2. Poppy's (and now, my) pal FiddleDD was clearly enraptured by the insouciant way in which I wore mine and beheld me in conversation to the exclusion of all else, including nourishment.

Here are my favorites:

The 4-point fold, preferable with linen.

The "TV fold," preferable with cotton.

Therefore, young man**, should you want to make a hit with the better element of the distaff side of the species...you must wear that poquet square, but hold yon plume.

* I must reiterate that as Mistress of the Revels, Poppy is a peerless wonder.

** Young ladies might wish to use this as a litmus test, although I recognize this is a very controversial thing.

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