What Is A French or Double Cuff?
Double cuffs (or “French cuffs” in American English) are common among those who dress nattily, either out of necessity or desire. The cuff is twice as long as a single cuff and folds back over onto itself to fasten, hence the term “double cuff”.
French cuffs are practically part of the uniform for the Wall Street set, and they are required for morning dress and black tie. Politicians will often wear French cuff shirts, as will criminal defense lawyers and other professionals.
Some may argue that it is generally advisable for younger men to avoid wearing French cuffs as it’s sometimes considered the territory of their older co-workers and bosses. However, with a growing appreciation of a well-dressed man, it will likely make a positive rather than a negative impact.
French Cuff Vs Normal Barrel Cuff
French Cuff [Left], Barrel Cuff [Right]
There are two primary differences between French cuffs and barrel cuffs:
- French cuffs are twice as long as barrel cuffs and fold over themselves before being fastened.
- Barrel cuffs fasten by encircling the wrist while French cuffs use cufflinks to form a tear drop shape around it.
As a result, barrel cuffs are functional and understated. Meanwhile, French cuffs are more refined and require an additional accessory to be fastened.
History Of French Cuffs
Legend has is that French cuffs were invented as a result of an order that Napoleon made for his troops, which consisted of shirts with extra long sleeves. This allegedly allowed them to wipe their noses easily, and then hide it by folding the excess back.
Meanwhile, another legend says the complete opposite and argues that these extra long cuffs were intended to prevent his soldiers from wiping their noses.
Fortunately, both these stories are untrue. Indeed, French cuffs were actually invented in England, where they’re known as double cuffs. How the term “French” got attached to this cuff style is unknown, but it didn’t occur until the style got to America.
As Americans tend to see this cuff as fancy, and all things French as fancy, it stands to reason that that’s how the name came about. Although the snot-laden legend behind it is ironic to say the least.
How To Wear French Cuffs & When It’s Appropriate
Although traditionally reserved for black tie attire and business professional clothing (particularly in Europe), you can wear French cuffs whenever you want. Still, there are some occasions that call for it more than others.
When To Wear A French Cuff Shirt
Some classic occasions for French cuffs are as follows:
- Weddings: Whether groom, guest, or something in between, a French cuff isn’t necessary at a wedding. It is, however, a fun way to add some personality and dressiness to your ensemble. For more on this, our full guide to weddings is a great resource.
- Black Tie Events: As we mentioned above, black tie events (ones at which a tuxedo is worn) were one of the only times a man would wear French cuffs. To be clear, French cuffs aren’t suggested for a tux, they are obligatory.
- Job Interview: If you’re interviewing for a relatively high-up position, particularly in finance or law, wearing French cuffs to your interview is a good idea. It’s an even better idea if you happen to be forty years of age or older. We say this because French cuffs, like braces, are occasionally seen as the territory of older men, and younger men run the risk of looking off-putting to older interviewers.
- With Business Attire: If you work in a business professional office and have to wear a suit five days a week, you can wear French cuffs every single one of those days.
- With Casual Clothing: French cuff shirts are made nowadays in more casual versions with bright colors and bold patterns. These pair wonderfully with casual trousers, dark denim, and sport coats.
Picking Out Your Cufflinks
All French cuff shirts require cufflinks to fasten. Cufflinks say a lot about you and your style, and the right ones can complete the way you present yourself. Exercise care in picking the correct ones for the occasion and your outfit.
The world of cufflinks is a vast one, and as such, we created a separate page that acts as a guide to cufflinks.
Make Sure Your Dress Shirt Fits
You can be wearing a gorgeous shirt with a super high thread count paired with the most strikingly beautiful cufflinks known to man, and it will not matter at all if your shirt doesn’t fit.
We have an entire guide to shirt fit, but know that French cuffs tend to be a bit larger than barrel cuffs, so keep that in mind.
General Style French Cuff Tips
Can I Wear French Cuffs Without A Jacket Or Sports Coat?
Of course! If you work in an office that’s business casual, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear dress trousers with a French cuff shirt. Nevertheless, we advise that ensure that you wear a sport coat if you are also wearing jeans. It’s fine in a pinch, but cufflinks can look out of place with just a pair of jeans.
Can I Wear French Cuffs Without A Tie?
Absolutely! In fact, James Bond often does it when pursuing villains on rooftops and during motorbike chases!
Joking aside, wearing cufflinks is an effective way of embellishing a suit when the tie is absent. Furthermore, this is a classic British take on business casual, and it can also be very handsome for a night on the town for drinks or dinner.
Top 10 Best French Cuff Shirt Brands
Although double cuffs can be relatively easy to find when you know a trusted shirt brand, they’re not as common as barrel cuffs. More often that not, department stores will stock a few French cuff shirts as an afterthought.
Therefore, we’ve assembled a selection of our favourites to present you with the best French cuff shirt brands:
- Hawes & Curtis
- Charles Tyrwhitt
- Turnbull & Asser
- Eton Shirts
- Brooks Brothers
- The Tie Bar
Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read it all!