British History/Handkerchief


I have been wondering why it was fashionable for men to carry handkerchiefs at around British 1700-1800's. Having one might be useful but why carry one constantly in hand? I don't mind if the answer is long and multifaceted.

Erlend (Norway)

Hello Erlend

Apologies for the delay in replying.

The answer to your question is really quite simple and straight forward. The reason men constantly carried handkerchiefs during this period was not due to a question of fashion but one of hygiene.

The streets at this time were particularly smelly as their were very few sewers to speak of. Refuse and human waste was often left in the street to Decay. This was particularly true in the larger cities such as London.

The handkerchiefs that were carried by gentlemen at this time were scented and were used to offset the awful smell they had to endure in the streets. As better ways of disposing of waste emerged the Handkerchiefs disappeared.

Hope this helps



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Malcolm Speechley


I can Answer Questions on any aspect of Pre-conquest British History including: The Roman Conquest and Occupation, The Dark Ages, The Anglo Saxon Monarchies, The Unification of England and The events Leading up to 1066. My answers can encompass Social, Political and Religous aspects of the period.


Over 20 years of Study of pre Conquest British history. Numerous articles published.

British Mensa.

BA(hons)Politics and History.De Monfort University, Leicester UK.

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