Every Man Should Carry a Handkerchief

by Brett & Kate McKay on March 26, 2009 · 188 comments

in Accessories, Dress & Grooming


We already talked about one essential item that all men should carry in their pockets: the pocketknife. But there’s another manly item that we should be toting around, too. A good clean hanky can come in handy when you have to dab your forehead, you’ve got snot running out your nose, or when a gal starts tearing up.

Why Carry a Handkerchief?

Handkerchiefs are, well, pretty handy. While women carry a purse stocked with things like tissue packs (and enough supplies to survive on a desert island for several days), most men do not. And yet our noses run just as often as our female counterparts. When you carry a hankie, you don’t have to go scrounging around for a tissue to deal with your dripping shnoz or wipe your nose on your sleeve. And you can mop your brow with it when you’re sitting on the front porch drinking mint juleps. This what I mainly use handkerchiefs for. I started the habit when I lived in Mexico and walked the hot, dusty streets of Tijuana. It’s nice to have something to wipe off the sweat and dirt off your face.

But the best reason to carry a handkerchief has nothing to do with you. It’s the chance to lend it to others that’s commends this practice the most. Be sure to put one in your pocket when you go see a tear-jerker movie with your girlfriend or accompany your wife to a funeral. When women are feeling vulnerable, they’ll really appreciate your offer of a soft hankie. It’s a gallant and chivalrous gesture; there’s just something comforting about it.

And as a bonus, they’re less wasteful. Think of all the tissues you could keep from throwing away. The handkerchief is to the tissue as the reusable diaper is to Pampers.

Getting Over the Ick Factor

There is an inverse relationship between the handkerchief’s popularity and the rise of our germa-phobe culture. A society that sprays the air with disinfectant to rid it of those pesky bacterium and totes hand sanitizer on key chains looks eschew at the reusable tissue. I think hankie ignorance is partly to blame. Having not grown up around handkerchief-carrying men, it seems some people are under the impression that a hankie is used over and over again, all week long. But a man should take a clean handkerchief each day, and launder them weekly. It should go without saying that when offering a lady your handkerchief, it should always be an unused, clean one. You should probably tell her that when you hand it over, as to allay any fears she might have about what’s lurking in its folds.

Even so, there are probably still those who think the handkerchief is too dirty even for daily use. To those people I say, “If it’s your hankie, why are you afraid of your own germs?” Handkerchiefs are pretty big and provide ample space in which to blow one’s nose multiple times without the snot ever overlapping.

Finally, grow up. You’re a man, and there’s nothing wrong with a little sweat or snot.

How to Carry a Handkerchief

First of all, don’t confuse the pocket square with a handkerchief. Pocket squares are pieces of cloth that should be visibly sticking out of the breast pocket of your suit. They’re not appropriate for hankie use because they’re expensive; you don’t want to be soaking a nice piece of silk with your sweat. Of course they could do in a real pinch. But typically a hankie is carried in your pants pocket, out of sight.

Handkerchiefs don’t have to be fancy. Just a plain white one will do. But there’s nothing wrong with going for ones with a little style. I have my initial embroidered on mine to add a touch of class.  They generally come pretty cheap, so you won’t have to worry about giving them out to other people. And a gentleman never asks for his handkerchief back.

What do yout all think? Is the hankie due a comeback or should it be left as a relic in the past?

{ 182 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nate @ Debt-free Scholar March 26, 2009 at 6:20 pm

I think that handkerchiefs should have a comeback. I plan to start carrying one.


2 MaCayn March 26, 2009 at 6:28 pm

While not a daily item for me, any time I am in a suit, I have a handkerchief in the jacket pocket to wipe my brow.

3 A. Hollis March 26, 2009 at 7:39 pm

I include a red bandana in my ‘everyday carry’, I’ve used it for years as a dedicated nose-blower (I have other bandanas for wearing) so it is quite soft and can always be found hanging out of my right back pocket, for that classic ‘grease-monkey’ look.

4 Vinay March 26, 2009 at 7:54 pm

I used to carry a hankie as a child to school as a part of the routine in India, but now as India gets more westernised , I think its more of “Wipe it on your shoulder” thingy.

I personally felt it was out of fashion, but what the hell, i’m gonna get out there and get myself a few hankies!

I’m gonna be a man!

5 Will March 26, 2009 at 8:30 pm

People misuse “bacteria” as a singular noun all the time, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it the other way around.

I find it rather strange that instead of the usual “bacteria” you would actually go out of your way to (mis)use the vastly less common singular form, “bacterium.”

It’s like hearing someone say “several criterion.”

6 Jesse March 26, 2009 at 9:05 pm

My father and grandfather have ALWAYS carried hankies in their pockets. And it seemed like such a good idea, that when I went to BASIC Training (Army), I carried one, too. Of course, I must have been the ONLY girl who carried one, but at least I didn’t have the bother of sweat or snot.

7 Allen March 26, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Be careful about putting it in the back pocket and letting it show:


It’s a signal that you’re playing for the other team.

8 Rob Diablo March 26, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Sure, let’s bring back the handkerchief.

I am susceptible to allergens and can be prone to sneezing at any moment, so I almost always carry(are you ready for this?) a paper towel folded in my pocket.

I used to carry a hanky but found them to be bulky. Paper towels are thinner and hold up better under strong nose blowing than tissues, but lack any degree of classiness.

I’m ready to give the handkerchief another chance.

9 Morgan March 26, 2009 at 11:16 pm

I agree, im going to start carrying one. This is definitely something essential, and it needs to make its comeback. thanks for posting.

10 Capt. Will March 27, 2009 at 12:17 am

*looks at pocket knife that is always in pocket*

*looks at unopened handkerchiefs in drawer*

If this is anything like the pocket knife advice…

AYE, AYE, SIR! I shall begin tomorrow!

11 Yavor March 27, 2009 at 1:43 am

I think if you are wearing dress pants or a suit, a clean pressed hankie will just add style. With jeans or tack pants or shorts, a pack pf paper hankies is better.

12 Ian Forbes March 27, 2009 at 2:13 am

I’ve been using the hankie for about a year now.

I do the front pocket thing and generally only use it for wiping my brow (public transportation in the summer), or wiping my hands.

It’s super handy. I highly recomend it.

13 Mark Hazard March 27, 2009 at 2:32 am

Is it due for a comeback? No, it snot. Sorry, had to do that. This whole Art of Manliness thing involves bringing back ‘old fashioned’ ideas that should not have been left behind in the first place, like the calling card and such. Forget germophobes, those people are nuts and shouldn’t be coddled. But I like the suggestion when handing one over to say, ‘It’s clean’. Maybe carry two, one for yourself in the right pocket, one for emergencies in the left? If you’re in the kind of job where you wear a blazer, it’s easy to do.

14 Andy K. March 27, 2009 at 3:08 am

Where do you all carry your handkerchiefs?

I’ve been carrying mine for a few months on and off lately, and I keep them in my back right pocket (currently the only empty pocket). I put *both* in there, because I rarely use them, and once one is used, I put the used one in front (in case the second needs to be given out). But, I realized that this might not be good for the opinions of others? Thoughts?

Also, don’t forget you can put fruit in your handkerchief, or use it to “protect” food. I carried mine in Salzburg 2 weeks ago, and the handkerchiefs I had turned out well to the storage of an apple in my bag.


15 Joe Frixon March 27, 2009 at 3:15 am

I carry an hankie everyday. Its more a humanly nature

16 Scott March 27, 2009 at 3:32 am

As a piece of flare in a jacket pocket, certainly. That never went out of style.
As for carrying around a snot-rag? No. Fuck No.

I would never even dream of blowing my nose on a piece of cloth and sticking it back in my pocket.

Why on Earth ???

Why am I posting this, if you don’t know…

Hey, lets wipe our asses with pine cones and put them in our pockets, too!

17 Roscoe March 27, 2009 at 3:37 am

I never knew that handkerchiefs had fallen out of fashion for so many men- what a shame.

One piece of advice though- the article mentions lending a handkerchief. It’s really bad form to do so, whenever giving a handkerchief to a lady, it’s better to let her know that she can keep it- if she needs it at the moment, she’ll likely need it again throughout the day. Surely you can spare $1 hanky for a lady? In fact, at funerals, I’ve been known to put an extra one in my jacket pocket so that should I give one away, I’ll still have one if I need it for myself.

18 Todd March 27, 2009 at 4:06 am

My Dad always taught me that a gentleman should always have a pocket knife and a handkerchief. He always carried both. I have always carried a pocket knife, well, these days it’s a Leatherman. Since I wear glasses, I’ve always had a 100% cotton, soft cloth for keeping my glasses clean, and it doubles as a handkerchief.

19 Jason March 27, 2009 at 4:29 am

I picked up a few handkerchiefs from craft stores, they have about 10(or more) different colors so you can match what you are wearing. They were around a dollar each. I have used them myself, let others borrow them, and if it is too dirty- thrown it away after I used it.
I suppose some people who are scared to use one don’t carry money either–since it could have germs. :)

20 Kevin March 27, 2009 at 4:57 am

I have carried a handkerchief since high school, now in my mid-40s Iusually carry two — one to use, one to give. Due for a comeback? Probably not, but since when does a gentleman depend on fashion to dictate his behaviour?

My only criticism is your line about the pocket square. While it is true that today they are usually silk (or worse, synthetic) and not intended for use, it is perfectly acceptable to disploy a linen (or less commonly, starched cotton) handkerchief in one’s jacket pocket.

I would consider it poor form to stand around at some formal, teary event — funeral or wedding — while a lady cries and refuse to offer a visible handkerchief because it might get soiled. Would you refuse to offer your expensive pocket knife to save a lady in peril because you might nick the blade?

21 Ali March 27, 2009 at 5:05 am

My husband has always carried a handkerchief and has a good stock of them in his bureau. There’s no more “ick” factor to laundering them than any other material that comes in contact with the human body. And their certainly more “green” than disposable tissues.

Speaking of pocket knives, I’m not sure their legal everywhere. There’s a lot of consternation over knife crime in England, so that’s something you’d need to check on first.

22 Robert March 27, 2009 at 5:12 am

I’m hoping it doesn’t make a comeback… at least not for those who care about hygiene.

While you may not be afraid of your own germs, reusing increases the likelihood of spreading to your hands and spreading illness to others. This is why disposable tissues caught on in the first place. The warmth of your pocket just helps encourage bacteria growth, even daily replacement isn’t enough.

Germs are spread more through contact (door knobs, handrails, etc.) than by air. Your more likely to catch someones cold by opening the door than being in the room with someone, despite the common phobia’s.

I don’t think this is any different than not washing your hands in the bathroom… ugh… why do people do this?

23 Brett March 27, 2009 at 5:13 am

Another question of etiquette as a one who totes a handkercheif. Do you iron a handkercheif after washing. I normally do mine, but I wonder if is preferred to just dry and fold to be softer. Any thoughts?

24 Brett March 27, 2009 at 5:21 am
25 Kevin March 27, 2009 at 5:22 am

To Brett: My rule of thumb is — iron if it’s for display (sticking out of a pocket, and I starch these too), soft if it’s for use.

To people trying to figure out where to keep a hankie — close at hand for emergency use. So for me, usually a front pocket, opposite my keys and knife. I keep my wallet in my back pocket or jacket breast pocket.

How much other stuff are you carrying?

26 Ross Patterson March 27, 2009 at 5:42 am

“I have my initial embroidered on mine to add a touch of class. … And a gentleman never asks for his handkerchief back.”

– That’s actually the reason for the embroidery, if you go back a couple of generations. A gentleman absolutely never asks, but a lady’s maid traditionally laundered and returned it. Of course, there aren’t many ladies’ maids out there these days ;-)

@ Rob Diablo: “I used to carry a hanky but found them to be bulky.”

– I go out of my way to find thin, lightweight handkerchiefs. It isn’t easy, but in plain white cotton I can get them in a six-pack for $12.

@Brett: “Do you iron a handkercheif after washing.”

– Yup. It goes to Rob’s point – when neatly pressed, it’s less bulky. Plus it looks less like it’s been recently used.

@Mark Hazard “But I like the suggestion when handing one over to say, ‘It’s clean’.”

– Quelle dommage! How far society has fallen, when one might wonder if the handkerchief one is offered has been “used”. I’d rather just silently offer it and have it politely declined than acknowledge such a possibility.

27 Bernie Franks March 27, 2009 at 5:48 am

Isn’t there already an article about this on here? Or maybe it was just mentioned in another article…

In any event, I’m a pro-hanky man myself, though I use it more to cover my mouth when I cough or wipe my forehead than blow or wipe my nose.

28 Richard March 27, 2009 at 6:01 am

If you’re gonna carry a hanky, always carry two: one for personal use, and one to share (make sure it’s expendable), and keep them separate.

29 Dennise March 27, 2009 at 6:12 am

My husband carries two every day. One to use and spare to clean his glasses or offer to others.

We are working on getting our boys carrying one. In elementary school it was discouraged.

30 Bob Jones, Esq March 27, 2009 at 6:17 am

I find the handkerchief very handy. I do agree to carry an extra if you know you are going to a tearjerker movie or to a funeral. I’ve given them out at both occasions, and even received them back without my initials on them. (I attribute that to no one else carrying them). The only time I threw one away was when two birds decided to unload on my dress shirt…I really didn’t want to carry that around until I got home, and I was really really glad I carried a hanky!

31 Andy K March 27, 2009 at 6:37 am


Well, on me, I have…
Front right pocket: Cell phone, pen
Left front pocket: Passport, change, key
Back left pocket: Wallet
Back right pocket: Notebook

I also haven’t gotten a decent jacket, so I don’t put stuff in jacket pockets because I put my hands there.

Thanks though.

32 Khristina Carey March 27, 2009 at 6:59 am

I own a variety of hankies and have a pretty collection from which to choose. I have been sending my four year old to preschool with a hankie since he was two. He knows to use it and it saves his instructors from dealing with his snottieness. A definite plus for them, I think!

33 Daniel Mick March 27, 2009 at 7:00 am

One of the first big cultural differences that fascinated while I was living in Japan is that there are rarely paper towels or hand-driers in bathrooms in Japan. The reason? EVERYONE carries a handkerchief or mini-towel. In fact, asking, “Where are the paper towels?” usually merited me a response along the lines of, “Where’s your handkerchief…?”

Granted, most of Japan is unbearably humid during the Summer and they are obsessive about NOT relying on AC. But that’s no different than the South not to long ago, and perfectly illustrated by the choice of picture for the article!

34 Nathan March 27, 2009 at 7:13 am

Handkerchiefs are pretty cool actually, You can do any thing with them almost, from giving it to a girl when she cries to making a flag in a game of gladiators. From putting it in a suit or blowing a big snot rocket in to it. They are very useful.

35 Joe Natale March 27, 2009 at 7:17 am

I’m only 24 and have always carried a handkerchief because my dad always carries one. I often get confused looks and comments about the handkerchief especially when I was younger. I guess most 3rd graders don’t use them. However, as I’m getting older, I get more comments about how classy it is to carry one around. I definitely think the handkerchief is due for a comeback.

36 Chris March 27, 2009 at 7:22 am

I carry one in my back pocket everyday. I also keep in extra one in my bag or coat in case it needs to be given out. Buy the inexpensive ones but not poor quality ones the as you’re more likely to use them and won’t feel bad about throwing them out.

I use it mostly for wiping sweat from my brow, though blowing my nose is not out of the question. You can use it as an emergency napkin, a bandage, a hand towel not just a snot rag.

At the end of the day whether I’ve used it or not it goes in the hamper. If it is stained from a spilled coffee or something else that won’t wash out it can go into a rag pile or more likely just thrown out.

I’m not afraid of germs and don’t get sick often so the eww factor everyone seems to have towards them doesn’t bother me. its my sweat, my snot, my mess. if you’re really worried you could also wash them in the sink after you use them as thin ones dry very quickly.

37 Enrique S March 27, 2009 at 8:13 am

Truly an accessory with many uses. I keep one on me, at my wife’s urging, to mop my sweaty forehead.

38 Brett March 27, 2009 at 8:33 am

Thanks for all these interesting comments. I’ve enjoyed reading the responses.


While using the pocket square for a hankie isn’t ideal, as I said above, I do absolutely think it could do in a pinch. I certainly agree that it would be bad form not to hand a crying lady your visible pocket square for fear of getting it soiled. In such a situation a gentleman will offer whatever he has on hand, no matter how nice.

39 Dan March 27, 2009 at 8:45 am

I won’t deny that handkerchiefs are useful when wearing suits and blazers and other dressy attire, as an everyday thing, they are not practical.

AoM was right on with the advice to carry a pocketknife everyday, but sometimes, AoM tries too hard to bring back styles that have rightfully been cast aside (like this list of the top 10 ugly styles that should NOT make a comeback: http://artofmanliness.com/2008/07/06/vintage-charming-mens-fashion/).

40 Daddy-O March 27, 2009 at 8:58 am

There are very few things that skeeve me out. …I once saw an elderly woman brushing her long, frizzy hair during my morning train commute, rip out the thick wad of hair caught in the brush, roll it in a ball, and shove it between the seat cushions. THAT skeeved me out.

But nothing tops seeing some guy pull out a hanky, blow their nose into it with all the breathe that God gave them, wipe at their nose like a busboy wiping down a table, and shove that mucus infused fabric back into their pocket to await the next offering.

I say progress is good in certain areas. During hard times, my grandmother-in-law ate white bread and lard sandwiches as a kid. Thank God we do not have to do that today. …Similarly, I am thankful that when I blow my nose, and empty my sinuses of all that is unholy, I don’t have to save the product in my pocket so I can revisit it later.

And I do not care that I start out with a clean one every day.

I embrace progress. At least in this area.

41 Josh March 27, 2009 at 9:02 am

My dad always carried a handkerchief and I’ve been carrying one since I was probably 16. I don’t know why more guys don’t use them. You feel better prepared for more situations knowing that you can give one to a lady, take care of your own hygiene or clean up a mess. Definitely a good idea. My two younger brothers (17 and 18) think they’re ridiculous, mainly because of the germs and because it’s “gross”. I’m trying to convince them!

42 McKay March 27, 2009 at 9:05 am

Carrying a snot-drenched handkerchief is revolting, and no amount of calling me a germaphobe can change my mind on that.

Also, a pocket knife can be a very useful thing to have on you, but carrying anything in your pockets can ruin the lines of a good pant.

43 Kyle March 27, 2009 at 9:45 am

I almost always have a few folded paper serviettes in my jacket pocket. Although not as classy, they’re just as functional, and come in handy pretty often. I should upgrade to the cloth deal sometime though.

44 DieMonkeys March 27, 2009 at 10:43 am

My father always carried a handkerchief when I was a boy. My brother and I always used them as they were better than wiping our noses on our nice sleeves in public.

When I started venturing out on my own I started carrying handkerchiefs, I always have one on me now, though I generally can’t offer one to anyone as I have a permanent runny nose it seems.

45 JC March 27, 2009 at 10:50 am

Believe it or not, my local 99cent store generally stocks 100% cotton hankies in 3 packs. Usual loading: Wallet (left rear trouser pocket). MY personal snotrag (read Joyce) goes LH R trouser pocket. Clean, virgin hankies go in inside jacket pockets. As you previously posted, the appropriate response on return of an offered cotton solace is “please, keep it”. They should be neatly folded but not, repeat, not, starched.
Yes, I have been known to turn around and drive back home (as much as 20 miles) if I find I have left without one.

46 Yev March 27, 2009 at 10:59 am

What I want to know is where to get a few without paying more than necessary. Any ideas?

47 Stephen M. March 27, 2009 at 11:27 am

@ Daniel Mick:

I second that on Japan. I studied abroad there (during the summer, no less) and never went anywhere without a hankie in my pocket and a mini-towel in my backpack/briefcase. Pretty darn handy! The mini-towels I used most frequently in Japan were roughly US standard golf-towel sized. I *always* knew where my towel was…

I now frequently carry a small microfiber cloth for cleaning glasses, sunglasses, phone screens, camera screens, etc. I’m quite sure it would double as a hankie in a pinch.

48 Mike March 27, 2009 at 12:39 pm

I have always carried a handkerchief and a bandana. Bandana for personal use and handkerchief to give. I don’t find them bulky at least compared to my wallet even the thinnest wallet is bulker than a handkercheif.

49 Jason O'Conal March 27, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I carry a handkerchief wherever I go. My sister thinks it’s gross, but I carry a clean one each day. It’s good to hear that other people still use them.

50 Someone March 27, 2009 at 1:25 pm

I started carrying on on my person a little over a week ago, and it’s very handy. I laundered my first load of them, and then ironed a couple. It makes them less bulky, easier to carry. I like the idea of carrying two though, I’ll have to start doing that.

51 Noah from Tennessee March 27, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I carry two handkerchiefs with me wherever I go, right along with my Swiss Army knife. As Boy Scout, it goes right along our motto of “Be Prepared.” A handkerchief prepares you for a lot of things, and more than just mopping sweat or wiping your nose. You can use it to clean your glasses, dry your hands when the bathroom is out of paper towels, or even stop the bleeding if someone needs first aid. It is a very useful item indeed.

52 Jared March 27, 2009 at 1:56 pm

I always have a handkerchief lying around, I should use it more often. It would be pretty usefull when hunting, or at school when you have a dripping nose. :)

53 Chris W March 27, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Long time hanky guy here.

54 gtg236s March 27, 2009 at 4:59 pm

I found some hankies at Target in the men’s clothing section (by underwear). 6 for $5. For me that is the easiest place to pick them up.

55 John M March 27, 2009 at 8:30 pm

I find a handkerchief to be a wonderful aid. For whatever reason, I ALWAYS have to blow my nose within 3 minutes of beginning to eat, and restaurants never stock tissues. Using paper towels or pieces of my napkin never work well either, I am slightly embarrassed to leave a balled up piece of anything on my plate as someone will be using their hands to clean that off. I generally carry a spare one in my jacket (i always wear a jacket of some kind just for the pocket room) and i always carry the one i use in my back pocket. I iron them and fold them neatly and they go in the back right pocket. I carry a thin front pocket wallet because i can’t stand anything thick in my back pocket. Any cash I carry goes in a monogrammed silver moneyclip that I got as a gift for graduation college from a job. I get pleasantly surprised looks on the moneyclip, by the way, and I recommend one.

56 Steve March 28, 2009 at 2:27 am

I have become a handkerchief, actually a bandanna devotee since moving to Singapore. Most public restrooms do not have paper towels for drying ones hands most people do the “S’pore shake and slap” or worse the walk around with wet hands (which I don’t really understand) but, I prefer to dry my hands and not on my pants…so a bandanna works well as my own personal towel.

On a side note the stalls are not equipped with tissue either unless it’s a industrial sized roll stationed near the door, which is to serve both purposes TP and paper towel… ever tried pulling on a tissue roll with wet hands? mostly an exercise in futility.

Restaurants (other than nicer places) don’t provide napkins either, everyone carries the little packets of tissue which are used instead. Again, I prefer something a bit more substantial than a thin bit of tissue, for most every thing.

57 Mike March 28, 2009 at 4:26 am

@ Scott:

Point taken, but as a gentlemen, I would submit that there is probably a better way to articulate your issue?

58 RogerRiv March 28, 2009 at 5:15 am

I have been carrying a hanky for quite some time now. I still tend to find a tissue when blowing my nose, but a hanky will work in a pinch. I am also CPR trained and a hanky can be used as a barrier if no masks are available.
As Snoop Dogg would say “I keep a blue flag hang out my back side”

59 Mountain Man March 28, 2009 at 5:22 am

Like the Motor City Madman says, “I’m getting ready to leave the house in the morning, so let’s see: wallet, comb, coin purse, handkerchief, pocket knife, gun — just the things a guy might need during the day.”

What kind of man can’t even blow his nose? Of course I carry a hanky. And yes, I have given out many a hanky to a lady in distress, and it is a noble gesture, always well-received. My stock is a little low, need to replenish.

60 Marcus Woods March 28, 2009 at 5:32 am

I’m 42 and I have carried a handkerchief for as long as I can remember and certainly since my first day of school. My dad, who is 78, has been carrying one his whole life.

The author is correct about the effect on a lady, when a gentleman can provide a clean handkerchief at the appropriate time.

The handkerchief is very helpful, when caring for children. I can’t remember the number of times my dad or my mom (yes, she had one in her purse) pulled out a handkerchief to soak up tears, staunch the dribble of blood from a scratch, or clean a nose after catching me using a sleeve instead of the handkerchief in my pocket. Now I use one with my children and have learned the benefits of a handkerchief over an alcohol-soaked wipe.

Great article. Thank you.

61 Jim Schmidt March 28, 2009 at 8:04 am

I learned to carry a handkerchief from my grandfather, who was a farmer, and from my father as well. I’ve carried once since high school; one of those little touches that gave me a little confidence and sense of my own style. Thanks to allergies and sinus problems and colds, a good hanky can be much more useful than a box of kleenex. As stated in the article, it also comes in handy for mopping up sweat.

And as for other applications, I have a prime example: I watched a child go face-first into a glass wall at an arcade while running after her family. Her nose was bleeding before she stopped skidding across the floor. I immediately pulled out my (thankfully, clean and unused) hanky and applied it to stop the bleeding while my wife ran to get her family’s attention. Naturally, I let her keep it. Hopefully she still has it as a memento.

62 Greg March 28, 2009 at 9:33 am

I learned the practice of carrying a hanky from my grandpa. It’s been really handy to have one ever since I started wearing glasses. I’ve started carrying two of them because of my granddaughters.

63 Greg March 28, 2009 at 9:34 am

I learned the practice of carrying a hanky from my grandpa. It’s been really handy to have one ever since I started wearing glasses. I’ve started carrying two of them when I’m with my granddaughters.

64 Peveril March 28, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I carry one all the time. They’re surprisingly useful and a very decent thing to be able to lend somebody when they’re in need. At £3 for ten, nobody has an excuse not to have one on them.

65 Julio March 28, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Two hankies — one, for nose, sweat, etc, front right pocket. Second, for giving out — or when hanky #1 is really gross, back left pocket. I normally leave the second, so every pair of pants in my closet has one.

66 mythago March 28, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Couldn’t agree more. Carrying tissues in your purse is not really the same as having my husband able to whip out a clean handkerchief instantly when needed – for a runny nose, if a child gets a cut, if there’s a sudden spill, whatever.

67 AllenH March 28, 2009 at 11:17 pm

I started carrying a hankie about 2 years ago. Started with simple white then branched out to a plaid colored one- which in the end has a better appearance after use. A fresh one each day is a must and a spare for various other uses in the backpack/briefcase is a necessity. I never knew I’d love carrying one so much- and I used to be one of the “eww-ick” crowd. A few items regarding them:
1) they don’t irritate the nose as much as Kleenex (ever pulled out a kleenex on a sunny day at home -a cloud of paper dust always follows – job security for Kleenex?) 2) My grandfather always had a couple in his pocket. – one had a corner knotted to his keys which he would wrap up in the hankie- likely to save his pockets. There is also a picture of him wearing one as a makeshift hat to keep the sun or sweat off his head – four corners tied with a small not. 3) Decomissioned hankies are great for filling your fountain pen with. Don’t wipe the nib after filling- dab with the old hankie to remove excess ink.

68 Will March 29, 2009 at 8:13 am


“…But nothing tops seeing some guy pull out a hanky, blow their nose into it with all the breathe that God gave them, wipe at their nose like a busboy wiping down a table, and shove that mucus infused fabric back into their pocket to await the next offering.”

If you blow your nose on a tissue, and there’s no wastebasket around, do you put the tissue in your pocket?

And do you have the same aversion to underwear?

I don’t remember when I started carrying a handkerchief, but I’ve done it for years. When people ask why, I tell them I carry it so I can dry a woman’s tears. Good idea about carrying two of them! I may start doing that.

69 Brett McKay March 29, 2009 at 9:58 am


70 Ben March 29, 2009 at 11:16 am

Sweet post… I’ve been carrying a handkerchief since I was a kid (along with a pocket knife) and they’re always useful. I now have a job that includes a fair amount of physical labour and it’s great to have something to wipe your brow that won’t disintegrate and stick to your face. I tend to go with the standard black or dark blue cotton ones.

Of course you’re right, plenty of folks out there who’d be terrified to be carrying around a rag of their own sweat.. my brother’s a germophobe bordering on Howard Hughes proportions.

On the other hand I still use kleenex for blowing my nose.. with my allergies the thing could be soaked in 10 minutes.

71 Andrew March 29, 2009 at 8:10 pm

I’m only 20 years old, but I’ve been carrying a hankie for several years because it’s convenient and my dad has always carried one. I always find it amusing when people my age see me pull it out for the first time and think it’s odd or “old school.”

72 paul manogue March 30, 2009 at 5:30 am

When I was living in Japan I also got use to carrying a handkerchif and a towel the japanese use called a tenugui, it is the same on kendo players wear under their helmets and sushi chefs wear rolled around their heads. The handkercif was never absorbent enough for sweat so that was to lend, and the tenugui allowed style and decoration. Do a goggle seach for tenugui to see some of the thousands of designs.

73 Michael March 30, 2009 at 1:23 pm

My Grandfather and Father always had a handkerchief on them to blow their noses, I never really took to that but over the last three years have been carrying one everyday to wipe my brow. I have carried a pocket knife for years and have a Leatherman as well. My wife likes my Gerber mirco LST some much that I need to go buy myself another one.

74 Aaron March 30, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Basically, carry a hanky, clean it on a normal basis.

If you’re not into a handkerchief, then yes, I’d say carry a tissue. Even being a guy, I carry one or two tissues, folded nicely. If my nose gets runny or there’s a lady who’s crying or just happens to have a funny nose, I hand it to her and tell her, “I always bring one just in case.”

But it always happens that if I forget to carry a tissue or handkerchief, my nose happens to get runny.

You can buy a set of 7-10 of them at stores like k-mart and walmart for a few bucks. They usually come with a monogram, and like mine, I bought a set of 5 with different colored embroidery for about five bucks. They’re put away right now, but I’ll crack them back out sometime soon.

75 James Cassell March 30, 2009 at 8:39 pm

I’ve been carrying one since about Thanksgiving. My grandma gave me one then, and I have since bought a pack from Wal-Mart, and try to always have one on me.

76 Nathan March 31, 2009 at 12:49 am

Concerning Handkerchiefs and pocket squares.

“ones to show and ones to blow”

77 Eric Lange March 31, 2009 at 8:19 am

I sweat very easily. When I met my wife, I used to carry around napkins for wiping sweat- which saved her when she had to use a paperless port-a-potty at an outdoor music fest. In fact that little act of chivalry is what won her over when a multitude of guys were trying to get her attention that day.

Once I started playing in a soul band, I quickly tired of using paper napkins (or my arm… gross) to mop my sweat onstage. I got a nice set of western handkerchiefs and feel much more civilized using them. I need to get an extra set and start carrying them daily- thanks for the reminder!

78 Joe S. April 1, 2009 at 4:08 am

I always carry a bandanna, and have for quite a few years now. Just as good as a handkerchief, and because it’s larger, even more versatile.

79 Eriq Nelson April 2, 2009 at 9:11 am

Strange, I just bought some handkerchiefs this last week as the allergy season begins. I hadn’t thought much of the social implications so much as the reusable nature of the handkerchief. It’s a very pragmatic solution for those of us with evil seasonal allergies. I’m considering some form of sleeve for it, like my microfiber that I keep around for my glasses, simply because when I’m out all day my single kerchief gets rather snotty. So something along the lines of a very slim, plastic lined bill fold or whatnot seems appropriate. Any suggestions?

80 Wolf April 8, 2009 at 9:37 am

I wore one because of the cold temps here in spokane Wa. last winter. Now I just carry one just in case maybe to use it maybe not. But They are do for a come back.

81 Robin Hawkins April 14, 2009 at 2:08 am

Surely a hankie is the ultimate recession-busting tissue!

82 Ricardo April 16, 2009 at 9:35 pm

In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, one of the title characters carries two handkerchiefs: one for himself, and an extra one in case a woman needs one.

83 Brian April 27, 2009 at 7:32 pm

I am a big fan of hankies! People who use them look so classy! As long as you don’t use one for multiple purposes on a given day, they can be really handy. If I have allergies, I try to carry more than one around, and yes, I do like hankies that go beyond just plain white in color. Hankies are softer (and usually bigger) than tissues, so i go ahead and enjoy a good loud honk whenever I need to.

84 Kenny May 4, 2009 at 9:24 am

I have been using handkerchiefs for years now. My dad has always used them, and when l was growing up refused to use them. But as l was growing older (35 now), l saw the sense in using them and never leave the house without a clean handkerchief in my front pocket and sometimes a spare one in my back pocket.

85 Steve May 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

I’ve been convinced to give it a shot – I’ve been carrying tissues around my pocket for a couple of decades now anyway thanks mostly to allergies – don’t need ‘em that often (just often enough to always need something around “just in case” ) so I end up with wadded up falling apart tissue after a few days – and if you think people think a hanky might be used if you offer one, you should see the reaction of offering someone a wadded up piece of tissue from your pocket. Ya – I’m thinking the hanky might be a nicer alternative. Just found some today at $2 for a 4-pack at the local dollar store.

86 1234 June 8, 2009 at 3:48 am

I carry a few sheets of paper towels. But I suppose a hanky would come in handy, where do I go to get one?

87 JonelB June 12, 2009 at 1:17 pm

I used a handkerchief for one week when I had to live in a tent in the middle of an Alabama summer.
Personally that’s what I’d use them for: wiping up sweat/tears, and I’d stick with using disposable tissues for blowing my nose.

88 Dan June 16, 2009 at 7:24 am

A summation of why the kerchief and not the tissue.
Hankerchief all around more useful:
For the obivous purpose, unless in the throes of a major cold, a clean one makes it through the day without getting too funky. Tissue is single use, has to be thrown away. If no receptacle is apparent, the only thing that will disintegrate faster in your pocket than a new tissue is a used one.
First aid, multi purpose: bandage, sling, tourniquet tie, etc.
Field expedient head cover either from the sun in the event of an unsheduled desert jaunt or for an unprepared lady on a Sistine Chapel tour.
Hobo satchel with or without stick.
Absorbing ill-timed spills when nothing else is available.
Field expedient hot pad, think radiator caps.
Field expedient mask, think air quality or train robbery.
And last, but not least coming to to the aid of any lady in either psychological or physiological distress.

89 Redsundog June 21, 2009 at 2:25 pm

A clean, white handkerchief has been part of my everyday dress since I started school way back in the year of our Lord, 1951. Some people consider it unsanitary or old fashioned, but I’m not trying to please “some people.” Carrying a handkerchief is a manly, nay gentlemanly practice that apparently has gone the way of good manners and being polite to strangers.

90 Siewpeng June 22, 2009 at 1:23 pm

So when did anyone last disinfect a paper tissue?


Hankies for my boys every time.

91 P.R. July 6, 2009 at 7:51 pm

I was at a bar last week with some friends when some drunk idiot stumbles to our table and knocks over a beer bottle to the floor, breaking it and spilling beer all over a female friend’s legs and shoes. Someone asked for a napkin, but there were none available.

Had I listened to this article before, this could have been my moment to offer her a handkerchief to clean herself up. Instead someone had to search for a napkin while beer dripped down her legs. I went to Nordstrom the next day to buy a 7-pack of cotton handkerchiefs.

92 vtamethodman July 12, 2009 at 12:11 am

I’ve carried a handkerchief for years and EVERYONE thinks I’m pimp when I pull it out. It’s also very useful for helping out the ladies, if you can jump in a dry their eyes, you are there’s!

93 Paul Miller July 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Two more reasons for carrying a hankerchief:
a) Have a baby? Great for wiping him/her up, anything about to go into their mouth, or applying pressure when they knock their noggin’.
b) Ever called upon to give CPR? More then half of those recieving it spit up or puke in the process. While not stopping every germ, it’s definately better if it stays out of your mouth.

94 simon cousins July 18, 2009 at 8:07 am

Another great reason to use a hankie over tissues: Have you ever left a tissue in your pocket while you wash them?

95 Walton Collins July 21, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Similar to what Nathan said above, there is one important rule about handkerchiefs:

carry 2 of them. one for show (or to hand to a lady in need of one), and one for blow.

When giving a handkerchief to a lady, always refuse her offer to return it to you, even if she says she will launder it.

96 Ian Boyte July 25, 2009 at 3:41 pm

At the age of 21, I have been carrying plain white handkerchiefs in my back pocket for years, now. You never know when it can come in handy, often for reasons you wouldn’t have thought of beforehand.

97 Patrick Ernst August 3, 2009 at 10:11 am

Handkerchiefs are the way to go. Very versitile and handy beyond comparison.

98 Tessie August 14, 2009 at 11:27 pm

As a lady who wandered onto your site through your Benjamin Franklin posting, I just wanted to say my father always had a hanky available. As a young girl, my mother would launder them, and I would iron them and neatly fold them for him. It made me feel especially grown up and close to my Daddy. Glad to hear there are gentlemen still carrying them. Love your site!

99 Steve August 21, 2009 at 2:01 am

It seems everyone who has complained about the germs related to a handkerchief has neglected the question of what to do if not carrying a handkerchief and there are no Kleenex around. Wipe your runny nose with the back of your hand? There’s no buffer at all. I think I’ll stick with a handkerchief.

100 Matthew Bell August 21, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I have carried a handkerchief since I was 9 years old, and as a 24-year old, I’ve taken my fair share of criticism and ridicule. However, in those circumstances where allergies take their toll, or when a female counterpart is in need of a tissue, they do come in handy. I must say that I have to deal with the ick factor (from other people, course; I couldn’t care less). Living in a culture where the handkerchief is no longer the norm, people just assume that you use the same hanky day-in, day-out without washing them. My father carries a handkerchief, as did both of my grandfathers and I’m sure all the men before that. One thing I never understood growing up… Why was it that it was ok for you to blow your nose in your father’s handkerchief after he had used it, but when you tried to give it back, the response was “Why don’t you just hold on to that?”

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