The double French 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.
Referred as “French” or “Double” cuffs in the USA and UK respectively, this particular type of dress shirt cuff experience something of a renaissance a few years ago. During the second half of the 20th Century, their popularity waned in favour of barrel cuffs.
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:
- What Is A French Cuff?
- How To Wear French Cuffs & When
- Best French Cuff Shirt Brands
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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 CuffThere 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
- TM Lewin
- Charles Tyrwhitt
- Charles Tyrwhitt
- Eton Shirts
- Brooks Brothers
- The Tie Bar
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Hawes & Curtis is a renowned shirtmaker from London’s Jermyn Street and has been producing its wares since 1913. Although originally a favourite of the aristocracy, Hawes & Curtis today caters to a more middle-class market.
As a result, it offers excellent value for money with frequent multi-buy promotions. For instance, you can usually pick up four of their dress shirts for less than $200!
"Offering unbeatable value for money, Hawes & Curtis produces high-quality traditional shirts at a fair price.."
Another favourite of ours, TM Lewin also operates from Jermyn Street and was founded in 1898. Like Hawes & Curtis, it retails affordable but high-quality shirts. However, their pricing is often more competitive.
As a result, you can occasionally pick up 5 shirts for just $150. Despite their frequent sales, TM Lewin does emphasise its quality and their shirts come with double cuffs as a standard.
Unsurprisingly, Charles Tyrwhitt is also a renowned Jermyn Street brand. However, it’s much younger as was founded by Nick Wheeler during the 1980s. Nevertheless, it’s grown to become a respected shirtmaker amongst its peers.
Like Hawes & Curtis, you can enjoy a $200 multi-buy for four shirts. Needless to say, their quality is on par with its counterparts and they offer a variety of patterns, weaves, and styles.
Why you should settle for off-the-rack garments when you can go custom? Although it may sound expensive, you’d be surprised by the value for money offered by Indochino!
One of our favourite made-to-measure suitmakers, they also produce excellent custom shirts, which let you choose your collar and cuffs. Indochino regularly have promotions and sales so you often pick up a number of custom shirts for a very reasonable price indeed.
A more up-market alternative to Indochino, Black Lapel is another made-to-measure specialist. As they aim to seek a higher level of quality, their shirts tend to be a little more expensive.
Nevertheless, they will often source their fabrics from celebrated Italian mills such as Tessitura Monti. Therefore, you can be satisfied in knowing that you invested in sustainable quality.
Unlike the other Jermyn Street brands listed here, Turnbull & Asser’s shirts are still produced in England. Indeed, their workshop can be found in Gloucester and was one of the many reasons that the brand received a Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales in 1980.
As they’re an authentically English Jermyn Street with a proud heritage, it’s no surprise that their shirts are retailed for a premium. However, if you’re looking for a truly refined French cuff shirt, you’ll struggle to find better elsewhere for the price.
Although we’ve featured a variety of heritage Jermyn Street brands, there are plenty of interesting alternatives elsewhere in Europe. For instance, Eton is a Swedish shirtmaker that has been in production since 1928.
All their shirts are made with cotton from either Egypt and California, which is woven by Albini in Italy. Eton Shirts are better known for their elegant barrel cuffs. Hwoever, they do have a number of French cuff shirts available too.
You don’t need to always look to Europe for heritage and prestige. Indeed, Brooks Brothers is a celebrated American brand that offers quality and luxury but at relatively affordable prices.
Furthermore, their shirts are woven from American-grown or Egyptian cotton and often made in the USA by experienced artisans too. Prices start from around $100. However, they do have a few occasional sales too.
Founded in 2000 by Fokke de Jong, Suitsupply has simply taken the world by storm. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a prestigious red carpet event without their tuxedos!
Suitsupply is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation and the brand uses Italian-woven fabrics by mills such as Vitale Barberis Canonico. However, Suitsupply is best known for barrel-cuff shirts. Therefore, the selection is a touch more limited than the brands listed above.
Admittedly, we were hoping for a better selection of double-cuff shirts. After all, The Tie Bar is a brand that is known for its ties and cufflinks. Nevertheless, they still have a reasonable and accessible stock worth considering if you’re on a budget!