If you’re like a lot of guys, you can’t tell one cuff from another. Heck, this might be the first time you heard about there being more than one type of cuff. If that’s the case, don’t let it get you down. Clothing tends to be a bit complicated if you’re new to fashion.
In any event, consider today your crash course on all things cuffs. I’m here to fill in the gaps and teach you how to differentiate between all of the different cuff types that you’ll come across when shopping for the perfect dress shirt. So let’s roll up our sleeves and discuss this important part of menswear.
What Is a Cuff?
The cuff is an extra piece of fabric sewn at the end of each sleeve. You use it as a form of wrist protection and decoration, and there are several different versions. What’s more, it is now possible to sew replaceable cuffs because they are easy to wear down faster than the rest of the shirt.
Sportswear with lace cuffs first appeared in the 15th and 18th centuries. In fact, similar styles worn by Catholic clergy are still seen to this day. Over time, different designers adjusted the styles for various types of cuffs.
The first known step was the invention of the popular Saville Street tailors, who used different types of cuffs on their shirts. The first styles of cuffs they developed were Button, Convertible, and Link.
The cuffs have determined the formality of the shirt since then, with link cuffs being considered the most formal in the fashion world, whereas the button cuffs are the least formal.
Types of Cuffs
Yes, there is more than one, and each has a design meant to make a specific statement. It’s actually quite amazing what cuffs say about you and your fashion sense. And while there is a litany of different cuff types, five remain the most common. Which one complements you the best? Let’s find out.
This one looks like a barrel (more on that cuff later), but it closes in a different way. You can close single cuffs with cufflinks. This cuff type is rarely found off-the-rack due to the fact that they are rare to see worn these days.
There are some small single-cuff style options, but I believe that the fit option is more important. Style options – just like with double cuffs – depend on whether it is rounded, square, or angled, although rounded is the default.
I tend to like some of the others, and there’s certainly nothing wrong if you do, too. The cuff can also have one to three buttons, although I must admit that I feel a bit more strongly about them. It is my belief that you only need one button. The same is true regarding sleeves on jackets, but at least that’s a trend that seems to be dying out.
Several buttons on the cuffs can cause unnecessary redundancy. Unless you have a specific reason as to why you need more than one button, I say stick to one. I’m rather fond of the Italian style, as it places the button on the bottom of the cuffs, closer to the edging.
They are also called an open cuff, where the lower position allows your wrist to move more freely. If you’re a man of simplicity and you like the thought of having more freedom in your attire, the single cuff might just be the right style for you.
This style is considered to be the most common type of cuffs and is commonly found in both casual wear and business wear. The design is that of two horizontally spaced buttons with a ¾-inch space between them.
What’s more, there is also a specific mark with the buttons arranged vertically. However, you will only see this style on tailor-made or popular shirts.
This style of shirt cuff has many names. Some call it the inverted cuff or the James Bond cuff. To others, it’s known as the Portofino or casino cuff. Regardless of the name, if you see cocktail cuffs, it’s sure to stand out to you.
Yes, the cocktail cuff is a rare but spectacular sight, as it is a double-length barrel cuff that is folded in a manner that presents a diagonal hem. Quite eye-catching, to be sure.
Cocktail cuffs have been around long before, but the Bond movie Doctor No caused its rise in popularity. The film starred in the role of James Bond, played by Sean Connery, and has since been accepted as the most popular by cuff connoisseurs. In fact, the cocktail cuff is one of the most popular and recognized fashion styles.
Convertible cuff types are not common, and you can only find them in stores that offer customized clothing. Normally, they are double cuffs, but some brands make them similar to barrel cuffs, adding a hole between the buttons.
I don’t mind convertible cuffs in the slightest, but I recognize that they aren’t the most popular choice among fashion-forward-thinking dressers.
The length of the French cuff is twice as long as the single cuff. However, these two types of cuffs require the cufflinks to be closed at the wrist. This elegant cuff style is very popular in the UK.
Its name comes from its style, where the cuff doubles over itself. Double cuffs were one of the most sought-after styles back in the day and remained so until the mid-20th century. This was when it became less popular, and the barrel cuff replaced it.
There are still many instances when you might want to wear French cuffs, including:
- Gatherings that require a black tie are ideal for French cuffs. In fact, they are not only recommended to wear a tuxedo, but also a must. The black-tie event is one of the rare occasions where this cuff is indispensable.
- Business wear and French cuffs are the norm these days. I tend to agree these two go hand-in-hand, and you certainly won’t look out of place sporting them together.
- This cuff style now incorporates bold patterns and bright colors to suit casual wear, such as sports jackets, casual jeans, dark denim, or dress pants.
- At a wedding. Whether you are a guest, groom, or official, double cuff styles will help to add elegance and personality to your overall attire.
- Don’t be afraid to wear double cuffs to a job interview. The French cuff looks good and is suitable for job seekers, especially if you are applying for a senior position in a legal or financial department. If your overall outfit is not matched neatly, you may risk not impressing the interviewer at first sight.
Making the Most of Your Attire with Cuffs
There are many ways to customize the style of the different types of cuffs you wear. Although sometimes you can find cuffs with different appearances in stores, in most cases you need to customize them to maximize your appearance.
I’ve got a few different ideas for you to consider, so let’s jump right in. With a little practice, you’ll find the style combination you prefer the most.
Consider Your Colors
The advantage of the many different types of cuffs is that you can make them contrast with your dress shirt. For the longest time, it’s been pretty common to use white collars and cuffs with non-white shirts. This fashion choice is due to the fact that the collar and cuffs wear out faster than other parts of the shirt.
In order to reuse the shirt without looking messy, the cuffs and collar adopt a replaceable style that allows you to extend the life of your attire.
You will find this style in custom shops and stores. This fashion style usually uses French cuffs, but sometimes barrel cuffs and other cuff types are also used.
Shake up Your Shapes
In the matter of shapes, the most common cuffs are miter, square, and round. Among the three – and I tend to agree – the most subtle and common is the round cuff. Miter cuffs are considered the most formal and elegant among them, and the square shape just isn’t very common. It does, however, look very suitable for casual wear.
Monograms quickly became popular styles for all kinds of cuffs. They are usually placed on the left, though some people say to avoid this as it causes distractions when shaking hands (as it’s proper to shake with the right hand). Although critics say this style is a bit gaudy, it is still very popular.
In the past, the monograms on the cuffs were hidden and placed on the left. They are only used for identification purposes when doing the laundry. The acronym of the owner is usually used for the design, thus making for easier identification.
Now you can have cuffs in a variety of contrasting or low-key colors. If you want contrasting colors, you can have them designed with reddish thread on a blue shirt or perhaps even navy-colored thread on a white shirt.
You can also use a combination of letters with the same thread color as the shirt for a more discreet appeal. The font differs depending on where you complete it. However, the more commonly used fonts use a conservative block style.
How Much Sleeve Should You Show?
Do you know how much sleeve to show? When you are wearing a shirt and suit jacket or sports jacket, the general rule is that the sleeve length should be between ¼-inch and ½-inch. Please keep in mind that this has nothing to do with the type of cuff you are sporting.
If you’re on the shorter side, you can choose to show more so that your arms will appear longer. Conversely, tall men should insist on showing fewer cuffs to make their arms look less lengthy.
What about hiding the entire cuff? If you are not going to show them, why wear different types of cuffs? But if the cuffs are exposed too much, this is also a bad thing in the fashion industry because it will make you look as if the jacket is too small to fit.
When you need to shorten or lengthen your sleeves, you can always seek the help of a tailor. I’ve enlisted the professional help of tailors on many occasions, so don’t neglect their services if you find yourself needing your attire altered.
If you’ve never had your clothing properly sized by a tailor, you should do so at least once in your life. There’s nothing quite like having a suit perfectly fitted to your body type. It really makes you stand out, and the comfort levels are out of this world.
With so many cuff styles to consider, you have a lot to think about in terms of finding the perfect fit for your attire. But remember, it’s also important to consider the event in which you would need to wear cuffs.
You wouldn’t necessarily wear the same types at a wedding and a job interview, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the proper setting in which to wear each type. With a little research and brushing up, you are sure to rock your cuffs correctly when the time comes.
1. What does cuff mean on a shirt?
A cuff is a fabric layer that extends from the bottom edge of a garment's sleeve (shirt, coat, jacket, etc.) to the wrist or ankle end of a trouser leg.
2. What's the purpose of cufflinks?
In shirts with French cuffs, cufflinks are used to connect or fasten the cuffs. These are formal button-down shirts. The addition of cufflinks adds a touch of formality.
3. Why do shirt cuffs have two buttons?
It has two buttons on the sleeves: one that tightens the cuff and one that loosens it. Therefore, unless you are wearing an extremely large watch or have unusually large wrists, you should always press the button to make the cuff smaller.