There are some general truths about men. We're not good about asking for directions or advice on something we feel we should already know. We'll go out of our way to make sure we don't embarrass ourselves. We stick with the tried and true that's safe rather than take a chance of being humiliated- even if its at the expense of growth and maximizing potential. If something new requires taking a chance, we err on the safe side.
At some point along the way, we became "adults" and stopped asking questions; our insatiable appetite for knowledge became streamlined, more "efficient". We block out entire areas of our lives that we don't make a priority or we consider "completed" in the learning department so we can cut through and focus on whatever we feel is a priority at the moment. As children we asked incessantly "why?" and "how?". This adulthood phase creeps upon us and we stopped asking questions- whether we were done or not. Deep down inside we know there are certain things that we should know, as mature men, but we don't. Perhaps we don't know who to ask but more importantly we're unwilling to make ourselves vulnerable to humiliation for asking something we feel we should already know. Pride prevents us from being teachable. Pride prevents us from reaching our potential.
Nothing earth-shattering there. Sure, there are plenty of exceptions to these generalizations but by and large they're true more often than not. To some degree these may be true for woman as well.
So why do I mention the obvious and what does this have to do with style and the sartorial? Let me give an example. Occasionally when I run across a man who is well-dressed in a blazer or suit but doesn't have a pocket handkerchief, I ask them why. I've gotten a myriad of answers. On occasion, I'll get an answer that's probably closer to the truth. The most honest being, "I don't feel confident enough in choosing one to wear, so its easier to not wear one at all". Bingo!
I'm sure some have illusions of a sartorial peacock and that even the most conservative and tasteful of such an accessory would make them feel ill at ease, as if everyone was watching them in some humiliating spectacle. However, most men with some degree of refinement realize that a tasteful pocket square is an elegant touch, even though they don't feel confident in how to go about it. Assuming that its learned by others in the formative years, men wouldn't dare ask now.
The breast pocket on a jacket has one purpose: to hold a handkerchief. For those who are either used to donning one or seeing one on others, the lack of is a noticeable void. That empty pocket is superfluous. A trained eye will go there even if there's nothing to see. Woman notice. A $5,000 suit with no handkerchief isn't fooling everyone.
Here's a near foolproof shortcut to hold the barren chested man over. Choose a solid white one, silk or linen. Other than white, another solid color that highlights a secondary color in your shirt or tie. Take the square and fold it into another square (now 1/4 the original size). Angle the square so one point is up, fold under the other three side points, hold them down and insert so the one point is up. Let the point be straight up or let it point to your left shoulder. There's no right or wrong, at this point almost anything will look intentional and the assumption is you know what you're doing. I found a nifty little online folding guide here for a number of different folds. Play with them and have fun trying different ones. I didn't want to leave off without some solution.
Beyond solids that draw the eye from the chest to under the face, I wish it was as easy to tell everything a man would ever need to know for all circumstances. It takes understanding some basic rules about patterns, colors and fabrics to explore the next level of mixing patterns and multiple colors. These general rules or guidelines are fairly universal when putting together an outfit. Then, only by truly understanding the parameters can we choose where on the spectrum our own style comfortably fits, what rules need to be honored and which can be bent. If one wishes to truly be his best, it takes time and understanding of the fundamentals of style. But its all worth it.
Next time we'll continue down this path and explore the basics of mixing patterns.