Referred as “French” or “Double” cuffs in the USA and UK respectively, this particular type of dress shirt cuff has seen something of a renaissance recently. During the second half of the 20th Century, their popularity waned in favour of button cuffs.
However, the recent resurgence in formal menswear has made shirts with French cuffs more accessible. However, this renewed interest in double cuffs has brought along a few questions too.
For instance, when and how do you wear double cuffs? Are they compatible with any attire or are they too formal to be worn casually? Read our dedicated guide on double collars to discover the answers to these questions.
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The French cuff (also known as the double cuff) is a style of men’s dress shirt cuff that is twice as long as a single cuff and fastens with cufflinks. The cuff itself is folded back before being attached.
We’ll do a deep dive into this cuff style on this page and you can scroll down to read it all.
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What Is A French 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.
In the workplace, it is generally advisable for younger men to avoid wearing French cuffs, as it’s generally considered the territory of their older co-workers and bosses.
French Cuff Vs Standard Barrel Cuff
[Below: French cuff on left, barrel cuff on 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, and
- Barrel cuffs fasten via a button and encircle the wrist. French cuffs fasten with cufflinks and form more of a tear drop shape around the wrist.
History Of French Cuffs
Legend has is that French cuffs were invented as a result of an order that Napoleon made for his troops: shirts with extra long sleeves so that they could wipe their noses easily, and then hide it by folding the excess back.
Another legend says the opposite, that these extra long cuffs were intended to prevent his soldiers from wiping their noses.
These stories, sadly, are untrue. 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.
How To Wear French Cuffs & When It’s Appropriate
Though traditionally reserved for black tie attire and business professional clothing (particularly in Europe), you can wear French cuffs whenever you want to. Still, there are some occasions that call for it more than others.
Knowing When To Wear A French Cuff Dress 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: s 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 sometimes 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 make (or break) your entire ensemble. 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?
In a word: yes.
If you work in an office that’s business casual, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear dress trousers with a French cuff shirt. We don’t, however, advise that you wear a French cuff shirt with jeans and no sport coat. It’s fine in a pinch, but leave the house with a sport coat on.
Can I Wear French Cuffs Without A Tie?
You certainly can! Take a look at our Travel Editor, Trevor, modeling a great business casual look below:
Note that one reason this works so well is that he’s wearing a full suit and has only ditched the tie. 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.
More Dress Shirt Resources
We hope this page was informative and enjoyable for you. If you’d like to learn more about dress shirts, you can visit some of our other resources below: