The Difference Between Handkerchiefs and Pocket Squares
The main difference between handkerchiefs and pocket squares is the intended purpose of the piece. One is for show and one is for blow. The modern pocket square is meant to be displayed prominently in the breast pocket of your suit. Handkerchiefs are meant to be kept in either your pant pocket or an internal pocket in your suit jacket and are used for wiping sweat, blowing your nose, etc. Clean handkerchiefs can also be loaned to women.
What Makes a Handkerchief
Handkerchiefs are essentially a more stylish and reusable version of a tissue. They should be kept clean through regular washing. Handkerchiefs are never made from silk as this material is not easily washed and does not handle repeated use. Quality handkerchiefs are constructed from 100% cotton and can be washed in washing machines on hot in order to best clean the fabric. Some manufacturers do make handkerchiefs from a polyester fabric blend; these should be avoided as they do not absorb as well as cotton handkerchiefs.
Some men choose to carry two handkerchiefs: one for personal use and one clean handkerchief to loan to others. These should be kept in separate pockets to avoid confusion.
What Makes a Pocket Square
Pocket squares are intended to be used as adornment and are displayed in the breast pocket of your suit. They are most commonly made in silk, wool, and linen. These decorative pieces often have fancy patterns that are designed to stand out. There are endless ways to fold a pocket square in order to create a wide range of looks. Pocket squares are purely decorative and are not meant to be regularly washed.
Both Pocket Squares and Handkerchiefs Can be Customized
It is very common to have both of these items customized with a monogram. This personalization makes the item uniquely yours. Handkerchiefs can also be embroidered with any number of designs and sayings. Unadorned handkerchiefs and pocket squares can be taken to a local embroidery shop and machine embroidered with the design of your choice.