A folded pocket square is more "sprezzatura." Change my mind.

A folded pocket square is more "sprezzatura." Change my mind.

The term sprezzatura is one that you'll probably hear a lot at Old House Provisions. For those hearing about it for the first time, it refers to deliberate carelessness and is most often used in the context of style and dress. Its most quintessential manifestation comes in the form of a tie tied such that the skinny end extends longer than the wide end, exemplified in the following photo by Kenji Kaga of Tie Your Tie. American style, originating out of the British tradition, historically did not exhibit such slovenliness. This is why my parents still ask me "What's going on with your tie?" when they see me in tailored clothing. However, the more recent trend of dressing well in informal settings has led to most favoring a more relaxed, Italian aesthetic. 

In extreme cases, the tie appears so hastily tied that the skinny end falls side by side or even slightly forward of the wide end at the knot, but I don't prefer this because the intentionality is a little too obvious, detracting from the essential sprezziness of the look, which brings me to my next point-

In my opinion, for one to appear effortless, they actually have to have some level of carelessness. In other words, sprezzatura is not just an outward appearance on the surface, but a way of thinking, being, and acting. It's a philosophy that is entirely consistent with what you might expect from high-performing individuals. They assiduously fill their wardrobes with the highest quality clothing and put it on in a reasonably quick amount of time. After all, they have important meetings to get to. By this logic, the otherwise sartorial 21st President of the United States, Chester Arthur, who was said to try on 20 pairs of pants before choosing one to wear, was decidedly not sprezzatura (The Unexpected President: The Life and Times of Chester A. Arthur by Scott S. Greenberger). Shout out to my fellow history buffs! 

While the doctrinaire sprezz expert might insist that the right way to wear a pocket square is to crumple it up, stuff it in your pocket, and be on your way, I find myself and others repeating this 4 or 5 times until the pocket square sits in just the right way, at the right height, with all the colors equally on display. I've even seen some videos where men wearing gaudy skin-tight suits with narrow lapels show you how to place a pocket square using origami-like folds, knots, and every second of the allowed video duration on instagram. While this might not violate the look of sprezzatura, it definitely violates the spirit of it. And inevitably, the pocket square falls deeper into the pocket throughout the day, and your carefully placed accouterment needs to be repositioned yet again. 

This is why I prefer a folded pocket square. If you're like me, you store your pocket squares folded in a drawer, and it's the last item you add to your outfit. I simply pick it up, fold it to a height slightly more than the full depth of my pocket (put the ruler down; it doesn't need to be that precise), and slide it in there. This has the added benefit of decreasing the bulk on that side of your chest and any unsightly tugs and pulls on the chest that may result. While bespoke tailors will often ask their clients if they plan to wear a pocket square and cut the chest with slightly more room to account for them, ready-to-wear suits are generally cut assuming the breast pocket will remain unadorned. 

That's where I stand on the matter. If you disagree and you're in the Washington DC/Maryland/Virginia area, meet me at Old House Provisions when I open the store in the fall and we can duke it out. Actually, just post your thoughts in the comments below. 

All the best,


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1 comment

Interesting about tailors cutting the chest slightly bigger to accommodate for pocket squares. I never knew that! I like your thinking with the folded pocket square. Maybe I will give that a shot. I do find myself having to adjust mine. Cheers!

Shawn Adkins

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