Handkerchief

Handkerchief

Overview

A handkerchief (ˈhæŋkərtʃɪf), also called a handkercher or hanky, is a form of a kerchief
Kerchief
A kerchief is a triangular or square piece of cloth tied around the head or around the neck for protective or decorative purposes...

, typically a hemmed square of thin fabric
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

 that can be carried in the pocket
Pocket
A pocket is a bag- or envelope-like receptacle either fastened to or inserted in an article of clothing to hold small items. Pockets may also be attached to luggage, backpacks, and similar items...

 or purse
Handbag
A handbag, or purse in American English, is a handled medium-to-large bag that is often fashionably designed, typically used by women, to hold personal items such as wallet/coins, keys, cosmetics, a hairbrush, pepper spray, cigarettes, mobile phone etc....

, and which is intended for personal hygiene
Hygiene
Hygiene refers to the set of practices perceived by a community to be associated with the preservation of health and healthy living. While in modern medical sciences there is a set of standards of hygiene recommended for different situations, what is considered hygienic or not can vary between...

 purposes such as wiping one's hand
Hand
A hand is a prehensile, multi-fingered extremity located at the end of an arm or forelimb of primates such as humans, chimpanzees, monkeys, and lemurs...

s or face, or blowing one's nose
Human nose
The visible part of the human nose is the protruding part of the face that bears the nostrils. The shape of the nose is determined by the ethmoid bone and the nasal septum, which consists mostly of cartilage and which separates the nostrils...

. A handkerchief is also sometimes used as a purely decorative accessory in a suit pocket.

The material of a handkerchief can be symbolic of the social-economic class of the user, not only because some materials are more expensive, but because some materials are more absorbent and practical for those who use a handkerchief for more than style.
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Encyclopedia

A handkerchief (ˈhæŋkərtʃɪf), also called a handkercher or hanky, is a form of a kerchief
Kerchief
A kerchief is a triangular or square piece of cloth tied around the head or around the neck for protective or decorative purposes...

, typically a hemmed square of thin fabric
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

 that can be carried in the pocket
Pocket
A pocket is a bag- or envelope-like receptacle either fastened to or inserted in an article of clothing to hold small items. Pockets may also be attached to luggage, backpacks, and similar items...

 or purse
Handbag
A handbag, or purse in American English, is a handled medium-to-large bag that is often fashionably designed, typically used by women, to hold personal items such as wallet/coins, keys, cosmetics, a hairbrush, pepper spray, cigarettes, mobile phone etc....

, and which is intended for personal hygiene
Hygiene
Hygiene refers to the set of practices perceived by a community to be associated with the preservation of health and healthy living. While in modern medical sciences there is a set of standards of hygiene recommended for different situations, what is considered hygienic or not can vary between...

 purposes such as wiping one's hand
Hand
A hand is a prehensile, multi-fingered extremity located at the end of an arm or forelimb of primates such as humans, chimpanzees, monkeys, and lemurs...

s or face, or blowing one's nose
Human nose
The visible part of the human nose is the protruding part of the face that bears the nostrils. The shape of the nose is determined by the ethmoid bone and the nasal septum, which consists mostly of cartilage and which separates the nostrils...

. A handkerchief is also sometimes used as a purely decorative accessory in a suit pocket.

The material of a handkerchief can be symbolic of the social-economic class of the user, not only because some materials are more expensive, but because some materials are more absorbent and practical for those who use a handkerchief for more than style. Handkerchiefs can be made of cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

, cotton-synthetic blend, synthetic fabric, silk
Silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

, or linen
Linen
Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Linen is labor-intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather....

.

Handkerchiefs were also used, especially by children, as an impromptu way to carry around small items when a bag or basket was unavailable. They could also serve as a substitute for a bandage over a small injury. In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, the habit of wearing a handkerchief with tied corners on one's head at the beach has become a seaside postcard stereotype, referenced by the Gumby characters in Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a BBC TV sketch comedy series. The shows were composed of surreality, risqué or innuendo-laden humour, sight gags and observational sketches without punchlines...

.

King Richard II of England
Richard II of England
Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III...

, who reigned from 1377 to 1399, is widely believed to have invented the cloth handkerchief, as surviving documents written by his courtiers describe his use of square pieces of cloth to wipe his nose. Certainly they were in existence by Shakespeare's time, and a handkerchief is an important plot device in his play Othello
Othello
The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565...

.

Modern usage



The use of a cloth handkerchief is occasionally considered old-fashion
Fashion
Fashion, a general term for a currently popular style or practice, especially in clothing, foot wear, or accessories. Fashion references to anything that is the current trend in look and dress up of a person...

ed or unhygienic
Hygiene
Hygiene refers to the set of practices perceived by a community to be associated with the preservation of health and healthy living. While in modern medical sciences there is a set of standards of hygiene recommended for different situations, what is considered hygienic or not can vary between...

, or both, in some parts of the world, mainly due to the popularization of disposable paper handkerchiefs and the fact that they are stored in a pocket or a purse after being used. However they are a potentially more environment-conscious
Environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

 choice, as cloth handkerchiefs are reusable.

At first the Kleenex
Kleenex
Kleenex is a brand name for a variety of toiletry paper-based products such as facial tissue, bathroom tissue, paper towels, and diapers. The name Kleenex is a registered trademark of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc. Often used as a genericized trademark, especially in the United States, "Kleenex"...

 company had not imagined that there would be a demand for a disposable paper handkerchief, so they initially marketed their product exclusively for make-up removal. It was only after they discovered that people were blowing their noses into the tissues that they began marketing
Marketing
Marketing is the process used to determine what products or services may be of interest to customers, and the strategy to use in sales, communications and business development. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments...

 them for this purpose.

Handkerchiefs are also used to hold hair back, as a fashionable head accessory. Handkerchiefs designed for this purpose are usually printed in a vibrant color and with a paisley pattern, and are known as bandana
Bandana
Bandana can refer to:*Another name for a kerchief*Bandana *Bandana *Bandana, Kentucky, a small town in the United States*Y Bandana, a Welsh alternative rock band.**Y Bandana , their self-titled debut album....

s or kerchief
Kerchief
A kerchief is a triangular or square piece of cloth tied around the head or around the neck for protective or decorative purposes...

s.
Signals may also be sent by handkerchief, such as the American LGBT handkerchief code
Handkerchief code
Handkerchief code or hanky code is color-coded system, employed usually among the gay male casual-sex seekers or BDSM practitioners in the leather subculture in the United States, Canada and Europe, to indicate preferred fetishes, what kind of sex they are seeking, and whether they are a...

s. In Spanish football or in bullfighting
Bullfighting
Bullfighting is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France and some Latin American countries , in which one or more bulls are baited in a bullring for sport and entertainment...

, it is a common sight to see supporters waving white handkerchiefs as an expression of deep emotion. It is used both positive in admiration of an exceptional performance by their team or a particular player (even an opposition player as was experienced by Ronaldinho
Ronaldinho
Ronaldo de Assis Moreira , commonly known as Ronaldinho or Ronaldinho Gaúcho, is a Brazilian footballer who plays for Flamengo and the Brazilian national team as an attacking midfielder or forward. He is a two-time winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year, awarded to the best player over the year...

 during a victory for FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona
Futbol Club Barcelona , also known as Barcelona and familiarly as Barça, is a professional football club, based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain....

 over Real Madrid
Real Madrid
Real Madrid Club de Fútbol , commonly known as Real Madrid, is a professional football club based in Madrid, Spain. The club have won a record 31 La Liga titles, the Primera División of the Liga de Fútbol Profesional , 18 Copas del Rey, 8 Spanish Super Cups, 1 Copa Eva Duarte and 1 Copa de la...

 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is an all-seater football stadium in Madrid, Spain. It was inaugurated on 14 December 1947 and is owned by Real Madrid Club de Fútbol. It has a current capacity of 85,454 spectators....

, in which Madrid fans openly applauded his performance), or as a negative sign of disgust at an especially bad performance by their team.

Folding styles



When used as an accessory to a suit, a handkerchief is known as a pocket square. There are a wide variety of ways to fold a pocket square, ranging from the austere to the flamboyant:
  • The Presidential, perhaps the simplest, is folded at right angles to fit in the pocket.
  • The TV Fold looks similar but is folded diagonally with the point inside the pocket.
  • The One-point Fold is folded diagonally with the point showing.
  • The Two-point Fold is folded off-center so the two points do not completely overlap.
  • The Three-point Fold is first folded into a triangle, then the corners are folded up and across to make three points.
  • The Four-point Fold is an off-center version of the Three-point Fold.
  • The Cagney
    James Cagney
    James Francis Cagney, Jr. was an American actor, first on stage, then in film, where he had his greatest impact. Although he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances, he is best remembered for playing "tough guys." In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth...

     is basically a backwards version of the Four-point Fold.
  • The Puff or the Cooper
    Gary Cooper
    Frank James Cooper, known professionally as Gary Cooper, was an American film actor. He was renowned for his quiet, understated acting style and his stoic, but at times intense screen persona, which was particularly well suited to the many Westerns he made...

     is simply shaped into a round puff.
  • The Reverse Puff is like the Puff, except with the puff inside and the points out, like petals.
  • The Astaire
    Fred Astaire
    Fred Astaire was an American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films. He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute...

     is a puff with a point on either side.
  • The Straight Shell is pleated and then folded over to give the appearance of nested shells.
  • The Diagonal Shell is pleated diagonally and then folded.


Designer Michele Rondini developed the "Poshfit", a pocket square with jewellery chain
Jewellery chain
Fine metal chains are used in jewellery to encircle parts of the body, chiefly the neck, wrists and ankles, and they also serve as points to hang decorative charms and pendants. Unlike industrial or chains for other purposes, jewellery chains are designed for aesthetic purposes.- Material...

 attached to a buttonhole
Buttonhole
Buttonholes are holes in fabric which allow buttons to pass through, securing one piece of the fabric to another. The raw edges of a buttonhole are usually finished with stitching. This may be done either by hand or by a sewing machine. Some forms of button, such as a Mandarin button, use a loop...

 of the blazer
Blazer
A blazer is a type of jacket. The term blazer occasionally is synonymous with boating jacket and sports jacket, two different garments. A blazer resembles a suit coat cut more casually — sometimes with flap-less patch pockets and metal buttons. A blazer's cloth is usually durable , because it is an...

.

See also

  • Homer Hankie
  • Napkin
    Napkin
    A napkin, or face towel is a rectangle of cloth used at the table for wiping the mouth while eating. It is usually small and folded...

  • Swapping of the handkerchief
  • Sachet
    Sachet (scented bag)
    A sachet is a small cloth scented bag filled with herbs, potpourri, or aromatic ingredients.It is also defined as a small soft bag containing perfumed or sweet-smelling items also referred to as an ascent bag, scent bag, sweet bag, sachet bag, sachet de senteurs, spiced sachet, potpourri sachet,...


External links