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Monday, July 11, 2011



When is the last time you saw anyone buying a cloth handkerchief? Or can you still buy them? No doubt not but I haven’t looked for any for I have an overload—from antique ones to the retro flowered ones to my own. I was raised to believe that a “lady always carries a handkerchief.” Reason why? My grandmother did as well as my mom. From the time that I was little, I always carried one in my pocketbook [yes I had tiny pocketbooks then] and into my adult years.

Men also had them and most kept them in their pockets. I remember watching my grandmother and mom ironing my grandfather and dad’s handkerchiefs. Think that men used them  more for wiping their brow whereas women used them for sneezing or to put up to their faces to give someone “that look.” If you’ve watched old movies, you noticed that a woman would drop her handkerchief in hopes that the handsome man would pick it up and return it to her. And it always happened—in the movies. As for me, I never did that as it was way before I was born and it would have looked quite dumb to do that for boys would just go on ignoring the dropped “hanky.” Women would sometimes carry a beautiful handkerchief or wear it tucked into their belts. Men wore them in their coat’s breast pocket all folded into a neat shape.

Handkerchiefs came in all variations and in all types of material. Linen and lace ones for women were costly yet beautiful and in today’s world, quite collectible. The flowered ones were considered secondary as far as carrying one and now they are called “retro.” Men’s handkerchiefs were either white, embroidered with their initials or the secondary type of plaid cotton. If I close my eyes, I can still see those that belonged to my dad—they were white and he wore them always in his coat pocket.

With the advent of tissues and disposable everything, handkerchiefs are now “Gone with the wind:” Just one more elegant past accessory that has met its doom. Shame is all I can say for I loved them, have them and yes, I still carry one sometimes. If you were to ask today’s twenty-something people what a handkerchief is, they would look at you like you were a Martian. On second thought, don’t ask.

Sherry Hill

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