Here are the four folds a well-dressed man needs to know.
The mad man
Also known as the James Bond or banker’s fold, this was originally called the “TV fold” after television personalities of the early 1950s, who adopted the style, as did President Truman. Clean, sharp and no-nonsense, this method of displaying a handkerchief had its heyday in the 1960s and now, largely thanks to Mad Men, is back in vogue.
The straight-across style is made for a cotton or linen hank with minimal embellishment (the one shown has rope stitching on the edge), and looks best with a dark suit. You can press the folds with an iron, if you like. The open edge of the folded square is best placed facing outward, toward your left shoulder.
The southern gentleman
Also known as the puff fold and the Astaire, after the great dancer and film star, who favored this method. It’s a classic way to display a silk pocket square.
Lay the square flat, pick it up by pinching in the center, sweep the points behind, slip the whole into your breast pocket, and then use your fingers to adjust the degree of dimpling and furrowing to your taste.
Be aware that the puff fold has a tendency to ride up, so what began as a conservative peek of silk can turn into a flamboyant show of color. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you may find yourself needing to subdue the puff with a few finger pokes throughout the day.
Also known as the puff with peaks. Also known as the Churchill, after Sir Winston, who in fact cycled through every known fold of pocket square except the TV fold. This style is best achieved with silk, but cotton and linen also work. Simply modify the puff fold (above) by turning up two or more corners, so they show on either side of the puff.
The goal is not symmetry or perfection. Far from it, you should aim for an unstudied effect, as though you stuffed the hank into your pocket with a single, casual motion and nary a thought to how it looks. But you do care, deeply, how it looks, so you’ll need to push and pull it into a shape that pleases you.
The bon vivant
Also known as the peak fold. Equally suited to silk, cotton and linen, the peak fold is the most common way to display a pocket square. Done right, it’s also the most expressive. When folded into four flat, evenly spaced peaks, a ’60s style synonymous with JFK, the effect is conservative—befitting a head of state, maybe, but not a bon vivant.
Your goal is a devil-may-care look—a casual contrast to the perfection of your suit. Fold the square in quarters, fan the corners, fold up the lower parts, insert the square, points up, into your pocket, and then shape each point. Angle the points toward your shoulder, echoing the “V” of your lapel and your manly torso.