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A little fashion accessory can add a lot to a man’s corporate attire. Think tie-pin, cufflinks, lapel brooch—or pocket square. The right fabric, fold, colour and pattern can make all the difference to your outfit. Even an Indian one.

Since a lot of men prefer to wear jackets sans ties nowadays, a pocket square is the perfect accessory to add a dash of fun to a suit. “Imagine a formal suit with a burst of colour in the pocket. It energizes you," says Vipul Amar, co-founder of the bespoke luxury brand V Renaissance, which offers trench coats and biker jackets, among other things.

“The origin of the pocket square goes all the way back to the ancient and wealthy Greeks. In the early 1900s, dapper European gentlemen never left the house without a pocket square tucked neatly into their suit’s breast pocket," says Kolkata-based designer Komal Sood.

This small piece of accessory can still be the perfect way to express yourself and vary the look of your special suit, says Koel Dutta, co-founder of Tiekart, a New Delhi-based e-commerce brand of fashion accessories. In case you choose to wear a pocket square with a tie, Dutta says you should match the tie to a pocket square via colour, pattern or print. “So if a tie has a bit of red, a solid red pocket square or a red-patterned pocket square can be worn. However, avoid matching the colours exactly. It will look like you are trying too hard. A white pocket square can be worn with any tie. And always contrast; don’t match dark colours with bright squares and vice versa."

Stay away from flaunting loud brocades or shiny velvets at a work-related event, or wearing a medley of colours in your tie, shirt and suit if your pocket square is pop-coloured (say, bright pink).

If both the tie and pocket square are printed or patterned, don’t wear pattern or print of the same size. For instance, mix a thin-striped tie with a thick-striped pocket square. And if a tie has thin stripes, it can be mixed with a large, polka-dotted pocket square, and vice versa.

In fact, the profession and occasion should define the type of pocket square and the fold. For a formal information technology/finance presentation, says Sharma, a smart black and white striped square would be apt. For a media/advertising event, one could show individualism by sporting a vintage newspaper-printed square.

Keep in mind the colour of the shirt and pocket square. “If the shirt is striped, patterned or has dobby (self-weave) motifs, opt for a plain pocket square and vice versa," suggests Sharma.

New Delhi-based couturier Varun Bahl says the fabric is important. “Don’t go for fabrics that crinkle easily. Satin or silk give a luxurious feel. Also, experiment with prints and colours according to the occasion," he says. The fabrics of the pocket square and the jacket should be different. Finer materials go with rougher textures. Silk and wool work well. Linen, says Sharma, is a big trend in squares at the moment.

Experiment with squares, as long as your entire look is balanced—a quirky pocket square goes with a staid suit, but make sure you wear it correctly. Angad Singh Malhotra, designer and founder of Mr Fox, a New Delhi-based bespoke menswear and accessories brand, says, “A bit of fun can be a good conversation starter but don’t wear a square that makes you uncomfortable."

There are many ways of wearing a pocket square, but the classic one is a right-angle fold (see “Match It Right"). Malhotra recommends the presidential fold for formal presentations and meetings, and the one-corner or puff fold for a formal gala dinner.

Sharma veers towards unconventional dressing: “Rather than wearing conventional solids or polka-dotted pocket squares, opt for experimental motifs, patterns, or conversational (designs with graphics like buildings, cityscapes or text). Also, experiment with folds every time you wear (one) so it looks different from the last time."

Try a square before buying one, advises Malhotra, because only one centimetre of the fabric shows eventually.

Pocket squares do well with Indian ethnic wear too. “Pocket squares worn with bandhgalas and bandi jackets complete a gentleman’s formal attire," says Bahl.

A word of caution: Do not over-accessorize. Wearing a tie, tie-pin and pocket square could be too much. Pick small bits of colour, not a bright colour (in pocket squares), for a formal meeting, adds Amar. “Avoid teaming very bright pocket squares with equally bright ties," says Sharma.

How to fold a square

While this is an acquired art, exposure and practice can make you perfect. Designer Komal Sood feels it all comes down to personal taste. “Some folds are simple, while others are complex. So it’s best to choose one that matches the occasion, dressing time, fabric and personality."

A few folds that you could try, by Sood.

u The straight fold (presidential)

Lay your pocket square flat. Bring the left side to the right. Bring the bottom towards the top, but don’t fold it all the way. Fold the fabric in thirds, horizontally, so that it fits your suit pocket.

u The one-corner fold (one point)

Lay your pocket square on a flat surface, with one corner facing up and one corner facing down, so it looks like you have a baseball diamond in front of you. Bring the bottom point to the top point so that you create a triangle. Bring the left corner of the triangle to the right corner, and the right corner to the left corner. You should end up with a long rectangle with a point at the top. It looks somewhat like a fence slat. Fold the bottom towards the top, but not all the way. Place it in your suit pocket. Adjust until you get the desired amount of point coming out of the pocket.

u The two-peak fold (two point)

It is similar to the one-corner fold. But you bring the bottom corner slightly to the side of the top to form two peaks (with the corners sticking out). Bring the left folded corner to the right, and overlap the folded right corner over the left to create an envelope fold. Fold the flat bottom midway to the top.

u The puff fold (puff pocket)

Lay the pocket square flat. Pinch the middle of the fabric, allowing the folds to come in naturally. With one hand firmly holding the pocket square, use your other hand to gently gather it together. Now gracefully gather up the bottom of the pocket square pocket. Place it in your suit. Fiddle with it until you get the desired puffiness.

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