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What is the difference between a handkerchief and a bandana?

A handkerchief or hanky is a square of fabric, usually carried in the pocket, for personal hygiene purposes such as wiping one's hands or blowing one's nose, but also used as a decorative accessory in a suit pocket. Richard II of England is said to have invented the handkerchief.

Historically, white handkerchiefs have been used in place of a white flag to indicate surrender or a flag of truce.


Use of handkerchief instead of facial tissue paper is often seen as old-fashioned and, especially in North America, unhygienic. On the other hand, some see it as a more environment-conscious choice. In Japan and Sri Lanka, carrying or using a handkerchief is considered to be well-educated.

A constant debate rages as to whether a handkerchief is softer than a tissue on the nose. Depending on which tissue (those with lotion being the softest, but able to stimulate some allergies depending on the lotion) and which handkerchief (much-washed cotton ones being the softest) are used, results can go either way.

A story goes that the Kleenex company hadn't initially imagined that people would want a disposable handkerchief, so they initially marketed their product exclusively as a make-up removal tool. It was only later after they discovered that people were blowing their noses into the tissue that they began marketing it for this purpose.

A bandana is a larger type of handkerchief often printed in a vibrant color and with a paisley pattern. Bandanas are most often used to hold hair back or to identify gang affiliation or used as a fashionable head accesory that may resemble how gangs may wear it but not all the time. In the US for instance, the Crips gang use blue handkerchiefs, and their rivals, the Bloods, use red, wearing the bandanas in various manners though generally not in the breast pocket of a jacket. Bandanas are also used for sanitary purposes, and because they are larger and not white (don't show stains as well), they are often used by those working outdoors or with machinery. Because they are connected to the working class they are also a symbol of working-class struggles, opposite of the cultured monied feel of a plain white handkerchief.
When used as an accessory to a suit, a handkerchief is known as a pocket square. There is a wide variety of ways to fold a pocket square, ranging from the austere to the flamboyant:
  • The Presidential, perhaps the simplest, is folded at right angles to fit in the pocket.
  • The TV Fold looks similar but is folded diagonally with the point inside the pocket.
  • The One-point Fold is folded diagonally with the point showing.
  • The Two-point Fold is folded off-center so the two points don't completely overlap.
  • The Three-point Fold is first folded into a triangle, then the corners are folded up and across to make three points.
  • The Four-point Fold is an off-center version of the Three-point Fold.
  • The Cagney is basically a backwards version of the Four-point Fold.
  • The Puff or the Cooper is simply shaped into a round puff.
  • The Reverse Puff is like the Puff, except with the puff inside and the points out, like petals.
  • The Astaire is a puff with a point on either side.
  • The Straight Shell is pleated and then folded over to give the appearance of nested shells.
  • The Diagonal Shell is pleated diagonally and then folded.

In popular culture

In the United Kingdom at least, the handkerchief has become something of a comedy item. In particular, the British phenomenon of wearing a handkerchief with tied corners on one's head at the beach has become a seaside postcard stereotype. Another source of comedy is found when a more expensive or important item is mistaken for a handkerchief, for example a tie or a pair of curtains. Other occurrences are formed from the comedic potential of a loud sneeze and subsequent nose-blowing;

  • In Richmal Crompton's Just William tales, William attempts to borrow the Vicar's silk handkerchief from his head using a fishing rod.
  • In the film Bean, Mr. Bean uses an ink stained handkerchief, which ruins the priceless painting of Whistler's Mother.
  • In Monty Python's Flying Circus, the Gumbies were a clan of dim-witted characters who all wore handkerchiefs on their heads.

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The above article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/handkerchief)  Definition Modified by Apparel Search  2/26/07

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