The Handkerchief



Given as a gift when nothing else comes to mind, bearing an initial to make it more thoughtful. Stuck in a breast pocket to provide a role to that otherwise useless space on a suit jacket or sport coat. A fashion item out of circulation is the handkerchief.

Originally used to cover the head, the kerchief literally means ‘cover-head’ in old French. In the middle ages, the English began carrying one for the most common function we think of today, catching a sneeze. To distinguish for a regular kerchief, the word ‘hand’ was added. The kerchief remained in use by eastern Europe women and by cowboys in the movies that always had one around their neck should a dust storm hit or they took a notion to rob a bank.

My dad carried a white handkerchief in his left rear pants pocket, I little sticking out. I would have to turn to a movie from the thirties or an image of Frank Sinatra in a tux to see a man wearing one in his coat pocket. Funny how the image of such an innocent piece of white fabric remains.

I prefer the romantic notion that a gentleman carries one for the use of his lady, to offer when something touches her emotions and a tear might ensue.

I still keep a fresh handkerchief in my pocket, although when I ran out of decent ones and tried to find a pack of them, the market spoke clearly that it’s a clothing accessory whose fashion evolution has gone the way of the dodo bird and the ascot, is the lowly handkerchief.

So, when time comes to give a gift, remember the handkerchief. To elevate the value, insert a card bearing its proud history and leave the obvious use of nasal leakage alone. Worn in pride by dashing leading men, a retro style of the rat pack, a thoughtful offering to your lady.

Just thinking about it makes a tear come to my eye. Where’s that handkerchief?


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Jackson Coppley

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