Ditch the Tissue: We're Bringing Back the Handkerchief
Kleenex and other tissues are about as much of a household staple as any paper product out there. Kleenex is easily on par with toilet paper, paper towels
One study on Kleenex and Kimberly Clark, the brand's manufacturer, found that a total of 300 million tons of tree fiber from virgin forests in the US are used to make its paper products each year. So how can we stop the arboreal slaughter, and replace Kleenex with a greener alternative?
We bring back the handkerchief.
We're Bringing Hanky Back
Even though it went out of style decades ago, a resurging handkerchief trend might be our best bets to slow all that deforestation—after all, men once wore their handkerchiefs with pride. And the time is ripe: environmental issues are on the forefront of mainstream culture, and people are more willing than ever to do their part.
Now we've just got to figure out how to make the hankie stylish again. For that, I decided to consult a man whose knowledge of classic men's style is unparalleled: Brett McKay, the founder and editor of the Art of Manliness.
I asked him what we men can do to bring handkerchiefs back into fashion, how they're best worn, and how to exercise manly handkerchief etiquette, among other things. His answers were smart and surprising—and he may just convince you to ditch the tissue and get yourself a hankie.
Hail to the Handkerchief
Planet Green: What's the best way for a man to sport a handkerchief?
Brett McKay: If we're talking a fully functional hankie—one you'll use to blow your nose or wipe sweat—then the best place to put it is in your pants pocket where it's out of sight.
The pocket square—the hankie you see men wear in their suit jacket pockets—are more for decoration than for blowing your nose. They're usually more expensive and made of silk, so you don't want to soil those too much, though I guess they could do in a pinch.
Visible or concealed?
For the fully functional handkerchief, then I'd go concealed. You don't want a hankie hanging out of your pocket. For the pocket square, you want it visible. Check out this post we did on the different ways you can fold a pocket square.
Do you think women will find handkerchief use unseemly in our hygiene-crazed society?
I think it depends on the woman. I think some women will associate it with their grandpas and good old fashioned manliness—so it could be kind of attractive. When a woman cries and you gallantly hand her your handkerchief, that's pretty chivalrous and comforting.
How can we make it more acceptable?
I think part of the problem is that people assume that the hankie is more soiled than it is, that you're using the same handkerchief day in and day out. They need hankie re-education. Inform people that you wash your handkerchiefs regularly and take a new one each day. When offering a woman your handkerchief, let her know that it's completely clean. And I think it goes without saying that you would never offer a lady a handkerchief that had already been used by you that day.
Do you use a handkerchief, or have you ever?
I do use a handkerchief. They especially come in handy when you're living in a hot climate. I lived in Baja, California for a few years, and it was nice to have something with which to wipe the sweat off my forehead when I came into a room so I looked fresh.
Are some handkerchiefs "manlier" than others?
Well, a pink handkerchief with ruffles is probably not very manly.
What should we look for in a handkerchief?
Just keep them as simple as possible. Mine are white and have my initials embroidered on them to add a bit of class.
Do you think the handkerchief has a genuine shot at coming back into fashion, and how can we help it do so?
While I love the hankie and wish it all the best in making a comeback, I doubt it will for a few reasons. First, compared to a Kleenex, they're pretty high maintenance. You have to regularly wash them (and some people iron them too), but with Kleneex, you just use and toss. Second, we've become pretty germ-a-phobic in our society. The idea of hauling around a piece of cloth in your pocket with your snot and sweat in it doesn't appeal to people. It will take some educating to let people know that most germs aren't that bad. Unfortunately, we're waging an uphill battle against years of Lysol commercials that have convinced Americans that flesh-eating bacteria lurks on every surface, waiting to eat them alive.
I think there would have to be a push from both the green culture, and general pop culture for the hankie to find its way back on the scene. It would need to become hip like re-usable grocery tote bags. Perhaps someone needs to make hankies with designs on them like skulls. J The tissue needs to get the treatment that disposable water bottles have been getting and become something seen as wasteful and uncool. And of course a picture of Brad Pitt offering Angelina a handkerchief in Us Weekly would help.
And there you have it—it may be an uphill battle, but with a little dedication, and the right sense of style, we might have a shot at getting mainstream America to re-embrace the handkerchief.