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Old Fashioned Stuff I Like: The Handkerchief

This is a new series that I’m going to add to from time to time. I’ve often been accused of being an “old man” and old fashioned, so instead of shying away from it, I’m going to celebrate it.

What is it?

The good old handkerchief. Basically, for those who are (somehow) unfamiliar with it, a handkerchief is a big piece of thin cloth.

How I use it

Um, for clearing out my nose. Is that the most dignified way I can put it? It’s like a cloth Kleenex.

Why I like it

  • It’s less wasteful. This is what prompted the change from tissue to handkerchief. I’m an allergy guy, so I find that I’m always in need of a good nose blowing when out and about. Because of this, I used to stuff a couple tissues in my pocket to carry around in case of emergencies. I don’t care for the “pocket packs” of tissue, because they seem to be more geared towards a lady’s purse than a guy’s pocket. I always feel like a pack mule when I’m carrying big, bulgy things in my pockets. But put some loose tissue in your pocket and carry it around for 2-3 days without using it. It leaves lint behind. It gets worn out and packed together. And if it rains, it becomes a useless wad of crud in my pocket. With a handkerchief, if I don’t use it, I can keep carrying it around for weeks and it doesn’t lose its quality. It’s ready for me, any time, anywhere.
  • It’s more distinguished. I get that this is a pure opinion, but think about it: you’re at a wedding, decked out in your finest suit, feeling like a grown up, and then you have to pull out an old tissue to blow your nose. Or even worse, you have to pull out and tear off a little toilet paper you had snuck in your pocket. I don’t care who you are – that instantly makes you feel about 6 years old. A handkerchief at least is neat and clean.
  • It’s easier on the schnozz. Tissues get harsh after a while. This is emphasized by rough toilet paper if you run out of it. Nothing like a big red Rudolph nose after giving it a good blow. The handkerchief stays soft and is pretty gentle on me.
  • It’s versatile. An unused handkerchief can tie off a wound, mop up a mess in a pinch, and really do anything a rag can do. It’s handy to have it around.
  • It’s durable. I’ve already talked about durability, but I mean this in terms of usage. There’s a breaking point in a piece of tissue where you might blow a hole through it, which just causes a mess on your hands. A handkerchief holds up to any blow. And if you’re blowing holes in a cloth handkerchief, you should probably go see a doctor.
  • It’s cheap. This was a sweet experiment for me to try, because it didn’t take much to get started. Sure, you can go on Etsy and get some cool ones, or you can spring for monogrammed ones, which I would love to do at some point. But when you’re just trying them out, you don’t want to drop a bunch of money and risk not liking it. In this case, I went to Target, ponied up $5, and got a box of six plain white ones. Beautiful.

Why people don’t use it

  • GERMS!!!?!?!?!!! That’s the general reaction I get. “They’re GROSS!” “You carry around your snot in your pocket?!?” Yeah, okay. But…

Why you should think about it

  • First, they’re your germs. That snot you just blew? It came out of you. It’s not like you’re going to give yourself a cold.
  • Keep it in a different pocket. I keep it in my back left pocket, where nothing else goes. So it’s not like the dreaded germ parade is going to dance over anything else in my pockets.
  • Fold it right. I fold my handkerchief to fit in my pocket, and when I unfold it, I have 12 perfect squares to use for my snot removal purposes. I start in the middle. So, after a section is used, it’s covered by, like, 6-8 pieces of cloth. In other words, it’s buried away.
  • Ever put a Kleenex back in your pocket? Found yourself in a situation where the Kleenex has to go back in your pocket to see if you can squeeze another use out of it because you have no other resources? Yeah, that’s much grosser. Trust me on this.
  • We’re a society that’s washing hands/using sanitizer constantly anyway. Just blew your nose? You probably are about to find hand sanitizer or a bathroom to wash your hands anyway. That’s what we do now. So what is the difference? And heck, I bet there are more germs on your hands from using that Kleenex than there are after using a big, durable handkerchief.
  • No doubling up on days. Did you use your handkerchief at all today? Put it in the hamper. The only excuse for doubling up on a handkerchief is if you didn’t use it at all the previous day. These things don’t get “full”, people. You just use it for the day and then toss it in the wash.

Just one man’s opinion. But I was turned onto the idea of using a handkerchief by The Art of Manliness, and I really haven’t looked back. They clean easily. They’re little maintenance. And with everybody being so concerned with being “green”, I’m surprised these haven’t caught on again.

But frankly, I couldn’t be happier with the decision. I may actually get some sweet monogrammed ones or some fancy ones off of Etsy. It was a cheap experiment, and it’s one that has paid off. Now we’re not wasting tissues, my nose is happy, and I feel a little more like a grown up. Mission accomplished.