James Bond is not an adventurous pocket square wearer. His goal is to always keep his pocket squares subtle so they don’t stand out, so they don’t draw attention away from his face and so they don’t compete with the rest of his outfit. He uses pocket squares to add a sophisticated detail to his clothes without looking too dandy or flashy. Bond usually demonstrates easy and effective approaches to the novice pocket square wearer, but a pocket square can be much more than the way Bond demonstrates.
When to Wear a Pocket Square
While a pocket square is always a welcome addition to almost any jacket with a breast pocket, a man is dressed neither better nor worse for wearing or not wearing a pocket square. A pocket square is always an an optional accessory and is never necessary. It merely brings a dandy touch to an outfit. It has the power to elevate a look, but the wrong pocket square can do more harm than no pocket square at all.
Pocket squares can be worn in any suit jacket, dinner jacket or sports jacket breast pocket, as long as the pocket does not have a flap. They’re equally appropriate in welt and open-patch breast pockets. While Pierce Brosnan occasionally wears pocket squares in shirt pockets and topcoat pockets in Remington Steele, that is a step too flamboyant for most men.
A pocket square has no bearing on an outfit’s formality either. They can be worn with or without a tie. Some find a boutonnière and pocket square together looks too busy, but they can be paired together successfully as long as the pocket square is subtle enough and in a different colour than the boutonnière so they don’t compete.
If one is wearing a travesty of a boutonnière that is a mini bouquet pinned to the lapel, then a pocket square is more likely to compete. But no well-dressed man should ever wear such a boutonnière. Boutonnière is French for buttonhole, meaning that the flower is meant to go into the buttonhole and not sit on the lapel next to the breast pocket.
How to Coordinate a Pocket Square
The pocket square should coordinate with other colours in one’s outfit. It’s perfectly fine to match the pocket square to the base colour of a patterned shirt or tie, but it looks more sophisticated to match it to the secondary colour in a shirt or tie’s pattern, which prevents any competition between the items. Likewise, a secondary colour in a patterned pocket square can match the primary colour of the tie. It’s also fine to introduce a new colour to an outfit in a pocket square, particularly if the outfit doesn’t have a tie.
More colourful pocket squares work better with less formal looks, while solids and simpler patterns with limited colour palettes can be worn both more formally and less formally. For black tie, it’s easiest to stick with white or black-and-white patterned pocket squares with simple patterns like dots, but introducing a single colour like red or purple works too.
There’s so much that a pocket square can do for an outfit and so many ways to be creative with one that it’s easier to outline what not to do with a pocket square.
The main colour of a pocket square shouldn’t match the base colour in a jacket, as it would blend in with the jacket, but matching it to the colour of a suit’s stripe or a jacket’s check is a tasteful option.
A pocket square should never be made of the same fabric as another wardrobe item. This goes for both the tie and the shirt. The items should complement each other rather than perfectly match. Bond, however, sometimes matches his pocket square to his shirt. Wearing a pocket square in the same fabric as the shirt or tie looks bad because the pocket square will compete for attention with the other items. This is especially the case with brighter or patterned ties.
Wearing a matching set says that the store where you purchased the matching items dressed you and that you didn’t chose the outfit yourself. It tells people that the set came from a cheap store because stores that sell the best-made clothes do not sell matching sets. The poor quality of matching tie and pocket square sets is usually apparent, and such ties rarely knot and drape well.The jacket and trousers of a two-piece suit match because a suit is a single garment, both practically and visually. A tie and a pocket square are never one garment. They are independent pieces and should be treated as such.
Ideally, the only time a pocket square should match the colour of another item is when both the pocket square and the shirt are white or off-white. Both are are neutral as possible so there won’t be competition. However, they should not be cut of the same cloth, and the textures should be different to show some creativity. A white linen pocket square is a traditional foil to a white cotton shirt.
That said, wearing a set of matching pocket square and shirt is much better than set of matching pocket square and tie because with the shirt there is usually less competition between the two. It works best if the shirt is unremarkable in solid white, light blue, mid blue, cream or pink. If the pocket square matches the shirt’s colour but is in a different fabric it looks less matchy-matchy and shows that you made a choice to dress yourself.
Matching a solid tie to a solid pocket square of a different texture can work too if the colour is neutral like black, grey, brown or navy, but in brighter colours the tie and pocket square are more likely to compete.
Folding, Puffing and Stuffing
Pocket squares may be folded in any number of ways, they may be puffed, or they may be stuffed haphazardly into a breast pocket. This blog has tips on how to get a folded pocket square to fit neatly in a breast pocket or how to effectively puff a pocket square.
There are plenty of more comprehensive resources on the internet about how to fold a pocket square, such as Gentleman’s Gazette.
While there are no rules about how to fold a pocket square, some materials work better in certain ways. Linen and cotton pocket squares look best folded and pressed into a fold. Silk pocket squares can be worn in a simple fold, but they won’t hold a complex fold. Silk’s draping qualities can be taken advantage of in a puffed or stuffed manner rather than a fold. The edges of the pocket square may be shown off if they are hand-rolled, but when the edges are machine finished it looks better to keep them hidden inside the pocket and only show the fabric.
James Bond’s Pocket Squares
The white pocket square was a Bond staple at the start of the series. Connery wears a white linen handkerchief in the breast pockets of all his suits and dinner suits in the first three Bond films—Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger—except with the grey mohair suit in Dr. No. It’s always done in a straight fold, more frequently called the ‘TV fold’ or ‘presidential fold’ after Harry Truman, and shows about 1/4 inch above the pocket to balance the amount of shirt cuff that shows. The only exception is a single-point fold with his brown houndstooth check suit in Goldfinger. He also wears the straight-folded white pocket square with his blue blazer in Dr. No. In the same film he wears it with a brown silk Nehru jacket to bring a personal touch to what is essentially a prison uniform.
The plain white linen pocket square is almost always an appropriate choice, as it never distracts from or clashes with any other item. It’s a subtle and tasteful way to show that one takes care in their dress without being flashy. It might not be an exciting choice, but it is a reliable one. It’s why James Bond so frequently wears a solid white pocket square.
The white linen square is less effective with an ivory dinner jacket and pale-coloured suits because it gets lost in the jacket. It’s not necessarily wrong to wear a white pocket square with such outfits, but there are better choices.
In Thunderball, Connery gave up on the pocket square. Tastes change, and someone who was following trends decided that it was time for Bond to move on from them. It doesn’t mean he was any less stylish.
Moore’s Bond did not usually wear a pocket square, but he wears one with his cream suit in Rio de Janeiro in Moonraker. This coincides with the first time that Bond wears a suit without a tie, so the pocket square is here to make up for the lack of a tie. Moore’s only time wearing a pocket square shows that it wasn’t quite his thing.
He wears a light brown pocket square that’s such a close match to his shirt it’s probably made from the same cotton. While this works decently when the shirt is more neutral, matching the pocket square to a shirt that already stands out means that they compete with each other. A darker brown pocket square would have been a better choice to keep the outfit tonal while preventing the shirt and pocket square from competing with each other.
Pocket squares came back into fashion in the 1980s, but Bond does not wear one during that era. Pierce Brosnan wears colourful silk pocket squares consistently in Remington Steele throughout the decade.
Brosnan was an experienced pocket square-wearer after five years of playing Remington Steele, and he brought some of his former character’s silk pocket square fondness to James Bond. Silk pocket squares are flashier than linen pocket squares, and they are a part of the more luxurious look that Brosnan’s wardrobe had compared to his predecessors.
Brosnan reintroduces the white pocket square for black tie in GoldenEye, but this time it’s in white silk and puffed out of his breast pocket.
In GoldenEye Brosnan also wears solid-coloured puffed silk pocket squares—maybe the same blue pocket square—that coordinate with a colour within his suits and ties. In the M’s office scene he matches a medium blue pocket square to the medium blue squares in the tie.
In the Q’s lab scene he wears another medium blue pocket square that coordinates with both the blue in his tie and his suit’s blue windowpane. The pocket square does not compete with the tie or too closely match it. He could have had the option to match the pocket square to the red or yellow in the tie, but those colours may have been too bold for James Bond.
Later in Russia, he wears matches a medium blue pocket square to the lighter of the two colours that make up his navy birdseye suit. This is a more subtle but very elegant way to coordinate a pocket square. The pocket square has just enough contrast against the suit.
In The World is Not Enough, Pierce Brosnan wears a light grey puffed silk pocket square with his pinstripe suit, which echoes both the grey in the tie and the suit’s pinstripes. While most people would probably have matched the tie’s red or gold in the pocket square, the grey pocket square is the more subtle choice.
Though pocket squares are absent from Daniel Craig’s first Bond film Casino Royale, he revives the Connery-style straight-folded pocket square in Quantum of Solace. After dressing sans pocket square with his navy striped suit—it’s taking after the pocket square-less striped suit look from the final scene of Casino Royale—he wears his the rest of his suits with folded white cotton pocket squares that match his white shirts.
In Skyfall and Spectre, costume designer Jany Temime matched Craig’s straight-folded pocket squares to his shirts—white pocket squares with white shirts and light blue pocket squares with light blue shirts. With the shirts and pocket squares in the same materials, it’s a bit matchy-matchy, but it’s also subtle and harmonious because the light blue shirts and pocket squares do not stand out.
All of his suits in these two films, as well as his dinner suit in Skyfall, follow this system. The ivory dinner jacket and light brown odd jacket in Spectre do not have any pocket square. Bond’s usual light-colored pocket square would not have enough contrast with the dinner jacket, and it may have looked too fussy for Bond with the casual odd jacket. It may have also been done to mirror how Sean Connery did not wear a pocket square with his brown barleycorn tweed jacket in Goldfinger.
The one exception to this system is with the black herringbone suit in Spectre. For a bit of extra flash while dressing to blend in with the Italian gangsters, Craig wears a white silk pocket square with black piped edges. It’s still the same colour as his shirt, but the material is different. Its contrasting piped edges are a nice touch for a pocket square because of the subtle way they add an extra detail, and they may also be hidden inside the pocket if they’re not desired.
He wears this pocket square stuffed carelessly into his breast pocket. It’s not the neat approach Bond usually prefers, but it’s hardly a flashy choice either. To hide himself amongst the gangsters, it expresses a bit of Italian sprezzatura, a studied carelessness.
In No Time to Die, Craig reverts to Connery’s pocket square approach by wearing a straight-folded white pocket square no matter his shirt colour. He matches them to his white shirts when wearing a black dinner suit and a grey checked suit, while the white square nicely brightens the look of his blue checked suit and light blue shirt.
Daniel Craig wore a piece of cardboard hidden inside his pocket squares as James Bond to keep his pocket squares from collapsing into his breast pocket. The cardboard is cut to the size the pocket square needs to be minus the thickness of the pocket square folded over the top. It sounds like it’s an overly studied approach, but when done well the cardboard isn’t noticed and it ensures the look is consistent. Lightweight cardboard should be used so it can bend with the jacket and won’t have too much bulk.