The New York Times - Dabbing the Brow of Cowpoke or C.E.O.

Dabbing the Brow of Cowpoke or C.E.O.


YOU can’t help but wonder if the late Richard Carlson of San Francisco would have chosen “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” as the title of his motivational best seller if he had lived on the East Coast instead of the West. Surely the only self-help advice for this cruel summer in New York is “Oh, Just Go Ahead and Sweat Everything.”

Of course, on top of a drenched shirt, pants and jacket, the heat is going to make a woeful mess of your everyday white cotton handkerchief. Tucked in your jacket pocket is one thing. But in your hand, mopping your brow, it looks awfully ... well, middle management.

So, enter our friend the bandanna. Larger by half than most handkerchiefs, the normal 22-inch-square bandanna has the wherewithal to take on the most overheated head, neck and whatever else needs a mop. Loosely folded and tucked into your back pocket, the bandanna was born to be abused.

Indeed, it looks better when slightly crumpled. Its color and pattern hide dampness and occasional smudges far better than its tattletale all-white cousin. Its cowboy roots give it a certain machismo and swagger, and should you be feeling so ’70s, it can be twisted and tied around the neck, a look that is cropping up in a surprising number of pictures on Facebook.

Bandanna, 6; Handkerchief, 0.

Even if you’re not partial to the old outsize paisley model, there are plenty of options. The western-wear brand Rockmount Ranch Wear of Denver has colorful bandanna prints with horseshoes, Route 66 signs, cowhide, prairie flowers and the like. offers the classic paisley pattern in a 14-inch square, the ideal size to do double duty as a snappy, inexpensive pocket square, which a large bandanna won’t. J. Crew will be selling similar ones from Hav-A-Hank in October. Another online source, the Bandanna Company, offers paisleys and patterns like checkerboards, stars, flags and batiks at just $1 each (though it sells them only by the dozen).


Some of the nicest, if pricey, bandannas are the ones at Hickoree’s Hard Goods, a store and Web shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The store’s house brand, the Hill-Side, includes dozens of appealing patterns (dots, stripes, swirls) designed by the line’s brother-owners, Emil and Sandy Corsillo. Best of all, most are available in kerchief size (21-by-21 inches) and handkerchief size (13-by-13 inches) to suit your suit or pants pocket as well as your styling or perspiration needs (or both).

The Hill-Side bandannas and pocket squares have proved to be a hit, sold in upscale men’s boutiques across the country. Emil Corsillo joked that he is even thinking of updating the mythic gay “hankie code” for 21st-century men, straight and gay alike. Red dot in left pocket: won’t call you back afterward. Red dot in right: wants to move in right away. Three different pocket squares crammed into left pocket: ADD. Crisply folded blue-and-white-striped bandanna in right pocket: OCD.

Clearly, the options are dizzying. But in a pinch, you can always punt. In a forum discussing the merits of bandannas over handkerchiefs on the Web site AskAndyAboutClothes, one wag wrote, in answer to a question about what a gentleman should use to blow his nose: “I always borrow someone else’s pocket square.” Intelligence, they say, is adaptation.

A version of this article appears in print on August 9, 2012, on Page E7 of the New York edition with the headline: Dabbing the Brow Of Cowpoke or C.E.O.


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