Handkerchiefs are one of those items that are quite hard to categorize: they fall between a utilitarian item and a style accessory. Today, they are quite controversial, as many people wonder whether they should still be used or not…
The handkerchief has an old and inexact origin. While some say it originated in China, it seems that its actual origins lie in the Roman Empire, when it was used for the same purposes we know it – that is to wipe of sweat. Back then, around 1000 B.C., having a handkerchief and using it to wipe your sweat off was a sign that you were a wealthy person. Throughout history, there were many times and places when the handkerchief was considered to be a sign of wealth. It all culminated when King Louis XVI of France enforced a law according to which no handkerchief could be larger than the one he owned. He also ruled that all hankies should be square.
It wasn’t until the 1920s when handkerchiefs became more mainstream, as the 1920s were a time when many things became more mainstream, including, among others, fashion, electricity and education.
Back then, it was a sign of style to have a good looking hankie and women used to embroider the initials of their husbands on their husband’s handkerchiefs. Some people even enjoy that today.
The purpose of a handkerchief
A handkerchief has two main purposes: it is used to wipe of sweat or other fluids such as blood in case of a cut or to blow your nose. Of course, there are other uses which are not very relevant today, such as signaling, filter water or dry yourself after washing your face or hands.
Most, if not all of these purposes are quite outdated and don’t make much sense today. These days, there are paper napkins that can be used to wipe of sweat or to blow your nose into (snot can actually carry viruses that can live up to three days outside of your body). Moreover, we hardly signal anything and, most people wash their hands in another place than the home usually dry them in an airblade or with a disposable paper towel.
It really doesn’t make much sense to have a handkerchief. Of course, there are people who consider them a sign of old-timey elegance and you can’t argue with that. In fact, some men still consider that blowing their nose in their own initials is more elegant than to blow them in a tissue. Each to their own…
Of course, carrying a handkerchief around is quite disgusting, you are basically carrying bacteria in your pocket and it doesn’t look good either to take it out all dried up and blow your nose in it.
Handkerchiefs vs. pocket squares
While sometimes the terms “handkerchief” and “pocket square” are used interchangeably, we prefer defining handkerchiefs as the fabric piece in which one blows their nose and pocket squares as the accessories with which you decorate a jacket.
Generally, handkerchiefs are made of softer fabrics than pocket squares and are very simple in style.
It is not recommended to use one as the other: pocket squares should always go in your jacket’s upper pocket and handkerchiefs, should you decide to use one, should generally go in your pants’ pocket.
To conclude, it can be said that, while classic handkerchiefs can be useful sometimes, for example if your nose is running continuously, but slowly and mildly, they are one of those things that don’t make much sense in today’s society, even though they have a gentlemanly feeling about them. It’s pretty much like riding a horse through the town, while everyone else is in hybrid cars – it’s not necessarily the best choice. Therefore, our advice is to stick to modern paper tissues: they are biodegradable, they can be recycled, they don’t cost much and they are very hygienic.
Fraquoh and Franchomme
P.S. We want to hear from you! What do you think? Should you still use fabric handkerchiefs? Why? Share your feedback, questions or thoughts in the comments below! For more articles on style, fashion tips and cultural insights, you can subscribe to Attire Club via e-mail or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!