QI recently saw a very well-dressed man wearing a gray suit, light blue shirt, and red patterned tie. He had a dark blue silk handkerchief in his pocket. I thought it was supposed to match the tie. What should the handkerchief match?
A: A pocket handkerchief looks best when it repeats at least one other color in the outfit -- and it can be any shade of that color. In your example, it could have been red (to repeat the color of the tie), it could have been any shade of gray from light gray to black (to echo the color of the suit), or it could have been some shade of blue (to pick up the shirt color).
Many conservative dressers always carry a white linen handkerchief -- the kind you buy at the handkerchief counter, not the necktie department. It need not match anything else. Nonetheless, the dresser who opts for a white handkerchief in his breast pocket is likely to be the same man who stays principally with white shirts. Many quiet dressers shun carrying anything (handkerchief, pen, or eyeglasses) in their breast pocket.
Other men like the dapper -- of a colored silk pocket square. With a patterned handkerchief, one or more colors in the design should repeat colors in the outfit. To avoid dealing with coordinating two patterns, some men use only solid-color squares.
The one hard and fast rule: Never wear a patterned tie with the identical pattern pocket square (for example, a paisley with the same paisley or a dot with a dot). And, as with
patterns, avoid matching a solid color pocket square with the same shade of solid color tie. Wearing a matched set looks as if you were dressed out of a kit!
A more sophisticated duo: a red-and-blue striped tie with navy-and-red paisley pocket square, or a solid deep-green handkerchief with a green geometric necktie.
If you already own a matched twosome, just split them up and wear them separately.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.
Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.