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The bizarre phenomenon of the handkerchief jutting out from the back trouser pocket

Posted by on February 23, 2014

It is amazingly impressive how ridiculously people are able to behave. As is the way other fashions develop and spread, also this ridiculous and absurd habit seems to follow this path.

I assume that some time ago some salsa-dancer must have had a handkerchief on him, which he might have put not intentionally but rather by chance into his back pocket, maybe just with the purpose of having it within reach to dry his forehead or/and his neck from the sweat.

This handkerchief might have accidentally jut out from the back pocket thus being visible.

On that day, some “smarter” dancer might have found it *cool*, and he must have made the decision on a whim to make sure he always have a handkerchief jutting out from his back pocket too,  when going Salsa dancing.

An Italian saying reads:

“piscia uno, pisciano tutti!”

which in English would be something like:

“no sooner the one pees, than everybody pees”

So, the “piscia uno, pisciano tutti-phenomenon”  did the rest. Click, whirr!

Now, if you go Salsa dancing, you will notice handkerchiefs of different colors jutting out from the back pockets of those cool dancers. It is funny. They look as though they have all grown a tail 🙂

To some extent, this phenomenon has even turned into a sort of status symbol. In fact, this silly phenomenon is more widespread among advanced dancers – or those who pretend to be as such.

Like a herd of sheep led by a foolish fashion initiated by lucky coincidences, these dancers show off their belief in being *cooler* than those from whose back pockets no handkerchief is jutting out.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” [Albert Einstein]

I just cannot help laughing at these fellows every time I see them. Finding myself outside this epidemic, I can enjoy the delight of ridiculing this behavior, but no sooner do I try to put myself into their empty heads, than I get a fright at the sudden realization of the problem hidden behind the appearance.

It makes me realize, once again, how naïve, manipulable, predictable and foolish the human brain is. It is exactly this feature of vulnerability that makes it possible for the industry of adverting to exercise  a strong, manipulative and deceptive power over us. Click, whirr!

> Now that we know we behave like goslings, it is important to understand the process by which our first decisions translate into long-term habits. To illustrate this process, consider this example. You are walking past a restaurant, and you see two people standing in line, waiting to get in. “This must be a good restaurant”, you think to yourself. “People are standing in line”. So you stand behind these people. Another person walks by. He sees three people standing in line and thinks, “This must be a fantastic restaurant”, and joins the line. Other join. We call this type of behavior herding. It happens when we assume that something is good (or bad) on the basis of other people’s previous behavior, and our own actions follow suit. < *

*[cf. predictably irrational, page 43, Dan Ariely]

My intent is not to make fun of these silly dancers at all costs. For all I care, they can keep flaunting their stupidity together with their handkerchiefs.



I am instead appealing to those people among you – who might be affected by this blindness –  who have the intelligence not to feel offended by this page but rather to comprehend the positive intent of the  message in the foreground.

Everybody – me included – sometimes follows/absorbs a fashion without really thinking about it or even being aware of it.

We should start become aware of our vulnerabilities.

I would recommend the following reading material:

Thinking fast and slow ,  Daniel Kahneman

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B., Phd. Cialdini

Predictably irrational, Dan Ariely

The invisible gorilla, Christopher Chabris & Simon Daniels



At home in Calabria, Berlin, London, and above all in the music.

2 Responses to The bizarre phenomenon of the handkerchief jutting out from the back trouser pocket

  1. Benjamin

    “They look as though they have all grown a tail” — Oh man, thanks to you I will never be able to look at a Salsa dancefloor anymore without giggling to myself.

  2. Suzanne W.

    Oh yes, such crazy fashions abound everywhere, not only on the dancefloor.
    Well guys, I have some news for you: do you really want to look cool? A coloured tissue won’t do the job. What makes you look cool is being a good dancer and having the smooth moves. So there’s no way around practice.

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