Pocket Square Rules to Lift Your Suit Game

Using a pocket square is guaranteed to add a dashing edge to your look. Whether you’re wearing a suit or simply a suit jacket, don’t leave home without a pocket square. It’s a great piece to add to your outfit and at times can be practical. Beware though, there are certain pocket square rules to follow. I’ve broken down some of the pocket square rules and have provided helpful tips to make sure you look fresh when you hit the town.

When you’ve got your pocket square in hand, be sure to follow this guide to learn the most common pocket square folds.

Pocket Square Rules and Guidelines

1. When in doubt, solid white never fails. 

This is a great go-to pocket square. A white, cotton or linen pocket square (or handkerchief) will never go out of style and is a great way to add a bold yet subtle look. It will go with anything and is appropriate for any type of event; formal, semi-formal and business casual. No matter the color of your suit, shirt or tie, white will never do you wrong. For extra flare, wear a white pocket square with a colored edge.

pocket square rules colored edge


If you forget any of the pocket square rules, then remember that you can never go wrong with white.

2. Complement.  

The pocket square is not supposed to match your tie, exactly. This the number one pocket square rule and I see this happening way too much. What I mean by this is if you are wearing a solid blue tie, a solid blue pocket square of the same color is not ok. The same concept applies to patterns; you want to create a contrast, so if the pattern is identical then don’t go for it. If you’re shopping for a pocket square and see these types of matching tie/pocket square combos, turn around and start running. The key point is the pocket square is supposed to complement the rest of your outfit.


You also don’t want to look like a unicorn threw up on you so it’s good to have a grasp on how colors work together. Experimenting is encouraged; however, throwing colors together randomly will not result in a good look. The color wheels below are great resources in figuring out which colors go well together.

Complementary colors are two colors located at exact opposite location of the wheel. For example, yellow and violet, blue and orange, and red and green are complementary colors. Therefore, you can pull off a violet tie with yellow pocket square and vice versa. Complementary colors have the strongest contrast and are a sure way to make your outfit look eye-popping yet harmonious. If you’re looking to turn heads then this route is the way to go.

pocket square rules complementary

Split-Complementary colors are similar to complementary but there are three components. In this case, the violet is the base but the opposite ends split out to two colors next to its true complement. The end result is a style that is classy and fun but not as vibrant as the standard complementary combination.

pocket square rules split-complementary


Triadic colors are three colors that are spaced evenly around the color wheel. It entails a good combination of warm and cool colors resulting in a balanced and sophisticated look.

pocket square rules triadic

Analogous. Three colors located adjacent to each other on the color wheel. I mentioned earlier that a blue tie and pocket square of the exact same color will not work together. However, a blue tie with a blue-green, blue-violet or another shade of blue is acceptable. The different shade gives it a slight contrast resulting in a fashionable appearance.

pocket square rules analagous

If the tie is a neutral color, grey for example, then the pocket square can be any color. Neutral colors like black, white and grey, will go with any color.


As I mentioned earlier, the pocket square is about creating a contrast. Although, solid colored ties and pocket squares are fine, you don’t want identical matches.

If you are wearing a striped tie, a striped pocket square will look fine as long as the stripes in the pocket square are at a different scale (thinner or thicker lines). Same concept will go with polka dots and checkers.

If this is making your head spin then my advice is to stick to solids or use a completely different pattern combo; such as a striped tie and polka dot pocket square.

Let’s breakdown this image. The tie and pocket square incorporate the use of complementary colors (blue and orange) and all of the patterns (shirt, tie and pocket square) have inconsistent patterns. Bravo to this.

pocket square rules combo Courtesy of handsomegents.tumbler.com

This second image is another good example. This tie/pocket square combo incorporates analogous colors. The tie is a solid purple while the pocket square uses a different shade of purple in the analogous color scheme. The pocket square pattern also contrasts the pattern in this fellow’s shirt. Well done, sir. Extra points for his tie knot!

pocket square rules combo 2Courtesy of lookastic.com

3. Don’t spend more than you need.

I love GQ but there’s no reason to spend $150, let alone $50 for a pocket square. I take pride in premium quality but it is a small piece of fabric that is partially revealed. In addition, there’s a good chance it’s going to look the same whether it is $100 or $10. The Tie Bar and Amazon are great places to purchase pocket squares that are inexpensive, stylish and premium quality.

4. Have fun!

Your style is an extension of your personality. Be creative and have fun when looking for a pocket square.

5. Wear with Confidence

In the end, there are pocket square rules to follow but in the end, it’s the man that makes the outfit. You have to rock your outfit with pride.

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