Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The best handkerchiefs that a man can carry, or wear in his breast pocket, are Irish linen, meaning the cloth was woven in Ireland where there is more than a thousand years of linen weaving expertise.
Now, linen is a fabric made with some difficulty from the fiber of the flax plant and almost every article made in linen is also made in cotton less expensively. If it were it merely a question of price, no-one would carry or wear linen handkerchiefs however the advantages of linen are that it is stronger than cotton, smoother, and absorbs water rapidly. That means it tends to hold its shape in a jacket pocket, and is better for blowing, or for mopping up a spill.
The best size for a man's linen handkerchief is about 17" on a side. They are made as large as 19 and even 20 inches but the larger sizes tend to be bulky in a jacket pocket.
The design of the handkerchief may be plain or, for some additional cost, patterned but for use in a jacket pocket its most important characteristic is the design of the edges. There are two common finishes. The hemstitched variety in the top photograph are finished by machine.
Hand rolled edges, like the ones in the second photo, require significantly more time to sew and can cost up to twice as much as their hemstitched relations. They also look better on display.
A man may need half a dozen or more handkerchiefs for hygienic purposes but two or three should suffice for display. And as with the rest of his clothing, they should be the best he can afford.