Handkerchiefs have a wide variety of uses, from blowing your nose to wiping sweat off your forehead to cleaning off the display on your cell phone or tablet. While handkerchiefs are often associated with men, women have been known to carry them as well. It comes as no surprise that everyday carry aficionados are also interested in handkerchiefs.
A Brief History of Handkerchief
In the past, handkerchiefs were an indicator of social class and wealth. In many European countries, upper-class citizens would use fine silk handkerchiefs while the lower classes used cotton cloth or muslin; this contrasted with England, where all types could afford cotton cloth due to imports from India and China.
Women, in particular, used handkerchiefs as accessories: rich women would place lace and other decorations on their cloth squares while poorer women had plain white handkerchiefs (much like those worn by today’s brides).
Handkerchiefs were also used as a form of communication. A woman would draw her handkerchief from her sleeve and hold it in front of her face; this action indicated that she had a suitor. She would then return the handkerchief to her sleeve if she was not interested or raise it to signal that she thought about him.
In some non-European cultures, handkerchiefs serve a more nefarious purpose: in the past, men have been known to wipe their brow with a cloth so they can check for sweat stains. If they do not find any, they know their faces are clean and proceed accordingly.
In certain cultures, such as Japan, handkerchiefs are still considered symbols of class and wealth.
Though in modern times, men rarely carry handkerchiefs out in public. It is usually only when performing specific tasks such as gardening or during sporting activities where sweat stains are likely to appear.
However, in some cultures, it is still common for men to carry handkerchiefs with them even if they do not use them; this is especially true in the South of the U.S., where handkerchiefs (and their variations) can be used to communicate many different emotions.
The Practicality of Handkerchiefs
The reason why men often carry a cloth square comes down to one thing: practicality. Men produce more sweat than women because of differences in hormones and size; the male has about twice as much sweat.
As a result, men are more likely to have sweat stains on their clothes. Since many professions require workers to wear uniforms, the stains left behind by sweat can damage or ruin clothing.
Businesspeople, in particular, have found handkerchiefs helpful when dealing with sweaty hands while giving speeches. They wipe their hands before gripping the podium, which prevents any embarrassing accidents.
The same trick works for hunters who use unloaded guns to train dogs how to chase down prey. If they fail to keep their gun clean, the dog might get confused and think it should follow human scent instead of animal smell.
Men also find handkerchiefs useful when fishing through dirty water; they wipe the slime off their face without getting any in their mouth.
They were used more practically in the past: covering mirrors, windows, and other objects during awake. The family of the deceased would sit beside the body in silence while a given time to mourn.
Covering up surfaces prevented them from being covered in any liquids that might accidentally be spilled during this time. Today, this tradition is rarely practiced but is still seen at wakes held at funeral homes where limited space forces loved ones to consider every inch of the available surface before lying down their handkerchiefs.
Why Do People Still Carry Handkerchiefs?
There is a common myth that men carry handkerchiefs to wipe their hands, especially after they have shaken somebody’s hand. This can be seen in movies where two gentlemen are about to have a duel, but one gentleman brings out the white cloth and wipes his face before the fight starts.
Another reason might be because of germs on public transport or in public places. Men are known to carry some tissues with them when they are on their way somewhere. They might also keep some tissues in their cars if it is not easy for them to step out while driving, for example, during winter when everything outside is covered by ice and snow.
It could also be due to an old belief that wearing clothes made of wool might induce some skin condition. One way around this was to repeatedly wash the cloth to become lighter and less dense than wool, therefore making you feel less warm.
Another possible explanation goes back before toilet paper was invented; instead, people used water and towels for hygiene after using the bathroom. It would be highly inconvenient if somebody forgot their towel or handkerchief at home, which is why many men carried them with them wherever they went. Even today, there are places where it is customary to have a handkerchief; in Saudi Arabia, men often keep one tucked into the sleeve of their left arm as an accessory.
However, there may never be a definite answer because every man has not practiced this custom across the globe.
The most common reason for carrying handkerchiefs is to keep them in the pocket as a fashion accessory. Even today, it is still considered fashionable for men, especially those wearing formal suits, to leave their jacket or blazer open with only the left side of the chest covered by material. This means that many will carry a handkerchief simply so they can put it in their left pocket.
Many scholars feel this custom originated from ancient times when people would use feathers or fabric as an accessory on their clothing. Later on, it evolved into using small pieces of cloth to wipe noses and mouths when there were no tissues available. Another theory suggests that men used it as a way to show off some costume jewelry, perhaps an expensive or unique handkerchief that caught somebody’s eye.
As this custom has evolved, it is not clear when the first man carried a handkerchief of his own volition, but there are tales of King Louis XIV who had many clothes made with large pockets to make room for them. It was also around this period where men were wearing knee-length pants with an opening in the front, which made it easy for them to ride horses while using their handkerchiefs.
Although there is no clear answer as to why people still carry handkerchiefs nowadays, we can speculate and perhaps come up with some theories. They might want to keep their hands clean, or maybe they need tissues because they have run out. It’s a mystery that has been around for a long time and will continue to be one even if it is solved. However, the fact remains that handkerchiefs have been around for a long time, do still serve a practical purpose, and will likely continue to be carried by people well into the future including us every day carry folks!