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There remains an age-old expression and expectation that always revolves around gentlemen carrying handkerchiefs on them. While you may not see them as often nowadays, many of us have memories of our grandfathers and the older, wiser generations always having a handkerchief at the ready – and I’ll be damned if they weren’t on to something! Hanks have always been a classic staple in the gentleman’s everyday carry. They have a lot of purpose, still to this day, and if you aren’t already carrying one as part of your everyday carry (EDC) you’re missing out.
The History of the Handkerchief
Handkerchiefs show up in world history as early as the first century BC, when they were used for utilitarian purposes, such as wiping one’s brow or general-purpose cleaning. In the Elizabethan era, hankies were high-end gifts, which nobles were known to present at New Year’s to the royal court. By the turn of the 20th century, hanks began to favor function over form as they became a necessary part of city life for urbanites who used to breathe through the cloth to combat the smell and toxicity of air pollution. Whatever the use, there is no arguing that from around 1800 until the early 20th century, handkerchiefs were ubiquitous.
Thanks to increased industrial production and the widespread use of colorfast dyes that do not run or fade, an affordable consumer handkerchief heyday emerged in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. Even during the Great Depression, when very few had the means to buy new clothes, hanks continued to grow in popularity. A single hankie brightly adorned with embroidery or a graphic print was just the type of affordable and extremely functional accessory that was still within reach for even the working-class. Handkerchiefs largely became something of a cult relic from the 1970s and beyond due to stiff competition from disposable tissue manufacturers such as Kleenex, yet despite their small size and seemingly antiquated purpose, there has been a recent resurgence of hanks and today they are becoming a common item found in the pockets of both men and women alike.
Today’s hanks are certainly not your grandfather’s handkerchief. While they still have all the typical uses of a traditional handkerchief, the needs of everyday life have changed, and we want things we carry in our pockets to be multi-functional. Modern EDC hanks are made from a wide range of materials including t-shirts, flannel, denim, any other versatile fabrics, with the stitch patterns contributing to the durability of the design as much as the graphics and colors. A well laundered, nice looking hank can add class and sophistication to your EDC while also ensuring that you are prepared to handle whatever daily life can (and will) throw at you.
Carry Like a Gentleman
Carrying a handkerchief has always been considered the gentlemanly thing to do. A good clean hank can come in handy in many situations, but perhaps the best reason to carry one has nothing to do with you personally. It’s the chance to lend it to others that always commend the practice of carrying a hank the most. Lending your hank to someone in need is a gallant and chivalrous gesture; there’s just something comforting about it, and as a bonus they are less wasteful thank Kleenex.
Clean Yourself Up
I know, it seems entirely obvious, but having a hank at the ready can prove invaluable when you need to do something as simple as wipe your hands or face. When was the last time you went into a public restroom and they were out of paper towels? I’d be willing to wager it was recently. Normally, most of us would wipe our hands on our pant legs and come out looking like we had an accident, which is less than ideal. Having a hank as part of your everyday carry means this entire situation can be easily avoided: pull out your stylish hank, wipe your hands, fold it back up, and put it away.
And while we’re on the topic, what about when things go beyond water? Let’s be honest, there is often no appealing way to wipe your forehead when covered in sweat or your nose when you’re under the weather. Your shirt sleeve can’t be the go-to option in many situations, and frankly, it’s gross. If you have a hank as part of your EDC than you have a more practical and classy option at your disposal and can easily be laundered later to remove any germs that may have accumulated. A handkerchief can even be used for first aid if things get dire!
Clean Your Other EDC Gear Up
Having a handkerchief as part of your EDC is particularly handy not only for cleaning yourself but also for cleaning up your other everyday carry items. Hanks can be used to clean up practically anything throughout the day for that matter. Use it to wipe fingerprints from your phone screen. Use it to clean off your knife blade (or blades for those of you carrying multiples). Use it to clean up messes like when you tragically spill your beer. The possibilities are endless and having a hank at the ready is beyond practical.
Some Final Thoughts on EDC Hanks
Handkerchiefs have been a common item carried throughout history. One could venture to say that hanks were part of the original everyday carry, and while the trend of carrying one isn’t as mainstream as it used to be, they are indeed beginning to find their way back into the pockets of many. They’re useful to have around, light, and can fit easily in either your shirt or back pocket opposite your wallet. You may not use them often, but once you add a handkerchief to your everyday carry you will find yourself missing it when it’s not there!