Ode to Handkerchiefs, or, Why Did I Ever Use Kleenex?

ARG. I keep trying to make this interesting, but let’s face it, handkerchiefs are not interesting. They are not even really that funny or controversial (unless you count the gross factor, which I attempt to banish from your minds with my amazing logic and persuasive words).

So, I like handkerchiefs. I have a collection. I have no idea how it started, and that’s probably a boring story anyway, but most have been gifts. I like hankies because they’re pretty, because vintage hankies can tell a story (who embroidered this? what do these initials stand for? who used this to dry tears?), and because I’m a sentimental fool for anything that belonged to my grandma or anyone else’s grandma. Only recently have I started to like handkerchiefs for their actual purpose. It actually never occurred to me to use them until I decided to stop wasting paper tissues. MAYBE it’s never occurred to you EITHER, so I now present to you…

Why I’ve Decided Hankies Are Awesome

From flickr user Monceau

They’re stylish. Coordinate with your clothes, add a splash of color, or go for plain white or a more manly bandana. And I guarantee, when you pull one out of your pocket any type of hanky will look much more appealing than a crumpled, linty tissue.

You can personalize them! Initials, monograms, designs, business logos – either with your own needle and thread or at a shop that does embroidery. Or, search vintage hankies for your own initials. It’s like a treasure hunt! Except – digging through vintage stores is kind of already like a treasure hunt. So… yes.

Low cost. Most vintage handkerchiefs are inexpensive, between one and five dollars. New plain cotton or linen hankies cost about the same or higher, depending on the quality. They will last for ages, so an initial investment of $20 or less will last for years.

The feel much softer on the nose. Especially vintage linen. So soft.

Plus, they smell nicer. Who doesn’t love the scent of fresh laundry? Or, spray them with linen spray or cologne or store them with a sachet. A nice scent plus the aforementioned softness is the recipe for a much nicer nose wiping experience. There is no way to say that and not sound weird. But I mean it.

They don’t fall apart when they get wet, and are wonderful for cleaning up spills, dabbing at spots, drying hands, or wiping your brow.

As for the hygiene issue, as most handkerchiefs are larger than a paper tissue, you blow your nose in one spot, fold up the hankie and use a clean spot next time. If you’re still worried about cleanliness, buy a hankie older or carry two, wrapping a clean one around the other. Use one for a day, throw them in the wash at the end of the week.* And even if you forget one in your pocket and it gets thrown in the wash, it’ll get clean and not line your pocket with paper lint. C’mon, you know that’s happened to you before. Pain. In. The. Ass.

Besides the fact that you’re not throwing away paper (and contributing to the use of trees, the chemicals used in the processing of paper and adding trash to the landfills) hankies themselves can be very ec0-friendly. What’s more eco-friendly than vintage? And if you prefer new hankies, there are organic cotton or linen varieties available. Here is an article listing several companies that make eco-friendly handkerchiefs.

Finally, if this still grosses you out and you’re one of those people who blows their nose once in the middle of a paper tissue and throws it out, or if you’re someone who is lucky enough to have a perpetually happy nose, I have to wonder WHY you spent your time reading this entire post. Move along now. Go read one of the photo posts instead.

flickr user Monceau

*Here is a great post on getting stains out of vintage handkerchiefs.

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