in: Accessories, Style

• Last updated: September 25, 2021

Every Man Should Carry a Handkerchief

A man using handkerchief ad advertisement.

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?

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