History of the handkerchief

Handkerchief, hanky, kerchief, pocket square, handkercher, tomayto, tomarto...whatever you call that square piece of fabric you blow your nozzle on, did you know that the handkerchief can be dated as far back as the Romans, when it was used for signalling the start to chariot races and according to research done by Handkerchief Heroes (I love that name!). Some historians state that it can be traced back as far the Chou dynasty. That's 1000BC folks! Apparently, it was used then to shield a person's head from the roasting sunshine! Now I can't help but get an image of grandads at the beach wearing white vests and hankies on their heads, knotted in the corners and also, a slight stretch admittedly but this sketch by Monty Python of hanky wearing on the head comes to mind and is just brilliant!

Adventures and Tea Parties Hand Embroidered Hankies


Hankies have certainly featured in Shakespeare's time (Othello, Cymbeline, As You Like It) and in the 16th century they started to come out of the dark and feature as a fashion accessory. According to Fashion Encyclopedia, "King Louis XVI of France (1754–1793), made it a law that all handkerchiefs must be square, and they have remained square ever since"! What a strange thing to impose but hey, how often do you see a round hanky? Maybe I should start selling them or would the french royality have something to say about that. Hmm, don't fancy having my head chopped off!

Adventures and Tea Parties Hand Embroidered Hankies


Since then, the handkerchief very much became part of men's fashion, being carefully folded and tucked into the left breast pocket of suits and available in a whole range of fabrics, colours and patterns. This tutorial by Liberty's on different methods for folding your hanky is particular good to get that perfect suit look!

Adventures and Tea Parties Hand Embroidered Hankies


All interesting stuff hey? I've actually found a whole heap of history on the kerchief, so rather than overwhelming you, I will share part 2 next week. And well, it would be remiss of me not to say that I'm actually flippin' proud to be keeping the tradition of handmade hankies alive and kicking in my Etsy and NOTHS shops.

Are you a hanky person? Do you have different hankies for different ocassions? I'd love to hear what you think about the good 'ol handkerchief!


Joanna PayneDesignComment