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A handkerchief (also called handkercher or hanky) is a form of a kerchief, typically a hemmed square of thin fabric that can be carried in the pocket or purse, and which is intended for personal hygiene purposes such as wiping one's hands or face, or blowing one's nose. A handkerchief is also sometimes used as a purely decorative accessory in a suit pocket.
Handkerchiefs can be made of cotton, cotton-synthetic blend, synthetic fabric, silk, or linen.
The use of a cloth handkerchief is occasionally considered old-fashioned or unhygienic, or both, in some parts of the world, mainly due to the popularization of disposable paper handkerchiefs and the fact that they are stored in a pocket or a purse after being used. However they are a potentially more environment-conscious choice, as cloth handkerchiefs are reusable.
At first the Kleenex company had not imagined that there would be a demand for a disposable paper handkerchief, so they initially marketed their product exclusively for make-up removal. It was only after they discovered that people were blowing their noses into the tissues that they began marketing them for this purpose.
Handkerchiefs are also used to hold hair back, as a fashionable head accessory. Handkerchiefs designed for this purpose are usually printed in a vibrant color and with a paisley pattern, and are known as bandanas or kerchiefs.
When used as an accessory to a suit, a handkerchief is known as a pocket square. There are a wide variety of ways to fold a pocket square, ranging from the austere to the flamboyant:
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