Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Blot, Swat, Bind. Carry a Handkerchief


The truly elegant man is never as nerve-wracked in appearance as I frequently appear to be. At least until the first bit of Dutch Courage hits about halfway through a martini.

Given my ability to manufacture stress and my penchant to wear dress clothing almost exclusively, I tend to perspire at inopportune times. And at times like that I mop my brow, wipe my hatband, dab my neck and get on with things. And I do that with a pocket handkerchief. I carry one always. I prefer cotton, but the ancient linens above are lovely and gets tucked into the hip pocket or the suit coat pocket on occasion. Cotton is easier to give away, or not miss if ruined.

They’re very useful, you know, for things other than mopping one’s brow. They dust off park benches for one’s lady friends. They allow parlay with the enemy in order to let him bow out of the fight gracefully. They bind up a wound if that does not happen. Always be gracious in victory. That’s the motto when the Easy and Elegant Life household takes the field.

In “The Last Crusade” a handkerchief doubles as protection from the sun whilst riding into the sunset.

Of course, the pocket handkerchief may become a pocket square and there are those who wear that way and use them as they were meant to be used. And then there is a reporter friend of mine who carries a bandana as a handkerchief. Along with his ancient tweeds, bowties, round tortoiseshell glasses and commemorative military belt buckles, it suits him. Dandily.

Perhaps the handkerchief’s decline in popularity came from the rise of the ” ‘doo rag?” Or the aversion to re-pocketing a used one? Or the triumph of the Kleenex, disposable tissue? I’m not sure. But it would do for you to carry one. As a man of action, you never know when you might need one.

20 thoughts on “Blot, Swat, Bind. Carry a Handkerchief

  1. Indeed. One needs a pocket square for “show” and another-discretely secreted away-for “blow” or to mop the brow or as you probably know-to attend the needs of a little fella or lady-before they use their sleeve or yours for tidying up.


  2. I always carry two – one in the hip pocket and the other tucked inside my blazer. There are always on my wish list for Christmas – and they MUST be 100% cotton.

  3. Agree with all in your post and both comments that I see, thus far. An indespensible tool. Forgetting my handkerchief is the same to me as forgetting my watch, I just don’t feel right. And, yes, I forget things quite often, so this is not an uncommon experience. Don’t even get me started on the time I left the house to go for a run and forgot my shorts…..

  4. My Granda always carried a hankie :O)

    I always carry one too! I get them from all over the place and everyone knows it is a favourite gift!

    My favourite one is an old Nina Ricci one I got about 20 years ago tho my current and most used ones are from Burberry in Japan :O)

    I cant imagine going out without one yet I never see any other women my age with them!

  5. The pocket handkerchief ( for other purposes than blowing ones nose) should make a comeback. There are many other uses indeed!

  6. I wear handkerchiefs (-chieves?)

    as a pocket square but never touch it after I leave the house and keep another in a suit pocket for actual use.

    I thought of having them monogrammed for a personal touch as I’ve started giving them away to friends and ladies who’ve had the needed to use one but I’ve never been sure about monograms I’m never sure how uppity it is as it’s something I’d find easy to get carried away with.

  7. Beyond the runny nose, I never considered all of the other possible and practical uses! This weekend, I am going out to purchase some cotton to keep in my pocket. Thanks everyone for helping me see beyond my nose!

  8. My dear husband has always carried a handkerchief, for all the reasons you mention, Mr. E. Lucky for me, because I often forget my own, and he willingly gives his up (not without comment, however). It was especially handy when the children were babies. The cars are armed with tissue packets in the glove boxes, but when out and about, and especially when dressed up, a cotton handkerchief is as appropriate as wearing socks. When attending special occasions, ones in which I know I will shed tears, I tuck one of many embroidered hankies in my bag. At christening, confirmation, and graduation, I hold the one embroidered Mother in my hand. I love to iron, so I don’t mind the extra effort.

  9. Bravo to you for keeping the handkerchief going! They use handkerchief’s more prevalently in England (where Mr. DC is from) and I find that in America (Los Angeles especially) they are a dying art. I love your inventive uses for them…

  10. Armod – Quite often you can find nice cotton handkerchives in department stores with Last name or first name letter monogrammed. Mine have a K I think you’ll find that if you give one away, they will remember you fondly. So… no worries!

  11. The handkerchief is an important detail that shouldn’t be forgotten. But it is also as important for a woman as for a man. A stylish and elegant friend always has a hanky in her purse, co-ordinated with her ensemble. It is a touch that takes seconds to get, but adds so much. Vintage handkerchiefs from eBay, antique markets or even church bazaars can be works of the embroiderers art from Spain, Italy, or Portugal…picked up for a mere dollar. The Japanese, with their acute sense of courtesy, have built an industry on the handkerchief, and they are widely sold in Japan. Most top designers, such as Yves Saint Laurent and Vivienne Westwood, have Japanese handkerchief lines exclusive to that country. The printed linen or cotton florals of Porthault are a delight for summer, spring, or resort, and add Gallic country charm for either sex. A cotton or linen handkerchief is one of the tiny details that indicate that a person is a lady or gentleman. Great post! Thank you.
    Square with Flair

  12. And another reason is a lady in crisis…[to Scarlett]..”Here, take my handkerchief. Never, at any crisis in your life, have I known you to have a handkerchief.” It was the last gift he gave her.


  13. I’m also a fan of this small bit of cotton and still find it useful to either make it look nice in my jacket pocket or keep it in my back for numerous uses. And on many an occasion it has made the ladies look at me twice when proffered for many a reason.

  14. Thank you ATM. Home, to their studies with a cigar and decent whisky. Most cannot abide society, unless it’s society… true snobs. Just kidding. Look to the theatre, opera, symphony, or newest restaurant. You may catch a glance out of the corner of your eye. Try not to startle them, although they loved to be admired!

  15. I knew my beau was “the one” when he offered me a clean white linen handkercheif during a Dairy Queen accident.

  16. Bravo, Mr. E. I have also found my ever-present pocket handerkerchief to be an indispensible part of my daily kit. One evening with friends, a younger friend commented on my pocket square and joked that he was sure that I did not utilize it for anything other than decoration. He nearly fell over backwards when I illustrated his point by producing a clean white handkerchief from my trouser pocket.
    I must also add that they have been quite useful to the occasional ‘damsel in distress.’ One of my wife’s friends was going through a very difficult time when her father-in-law was in the hospital (cancer, unfortunately) and eventually passed on. There were at least three separate occasions when I produced my handkerchief for the distressed lady as she had none of her own. She later thanked me by making a gift of several new cotton handkerchiefs (she apologetically explained that she could no longer find those that I had given to her).
    I was taught that no well-dressed gentleman should be without one for just such occasions.

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