Are French cuffs still popular?

01 December 2016

"French cuffs and cufflinks are as susceptible to trend as any other fashion accessory"

Its name is a misnomer and it uses twice the amount of fabric as a barrel cuff, yet their timeless appeal remains. The French cuff indeed isn’t French—it has British origins—and its original use was militaristic and was called a foldback, turnback, or double cuff. Designed for uniforms they were detachable and could be used twice on both sides if dirtied. Later adapted into a man’s staple wardrobe they allowed continued use of dress shirts in times when frequent laundering wasn’t the done thing, particularly in the Victorian Era. Fastened to the shirt using studs the French cuff had originally six holes for cufflinks (as opposed to the four we have today). It wasn’t until it landed in America it became known as French and its recent style history begins.

Compared with the popular barrel cuffs, French cuffs might seem like a lot of a fuss. Twice the length and worn folded back on themselves they are the more formal option and there was once a time they could be worn only with a lounge or dinner suit. Nowadays it’s not a no-no to wear them with a sports jacket, but it isn’t the most popular choice. In the last decade they rose to popularity again in the business world, but their use is in decline again. That’s not to say they don’t have their place, but French cuffs and cufflinks are as susceptible to trend as any other fashion accessory. While they dress up an outfit and give polish to its appearance they can become cumbersome, particularly if working at a desk for a long time. Barrel cuffs are far more streamlined.

So how do you choose? Wearing French cuffs and cufflinks is a personal preference and there’s a certain romance about putting them on in the morning or before a big event. A man who favours tradition will feel just as comfortable if not more when kitted out in cufflinks, particularly if he has a collection he likes to wear. Aim for events with prestige and you’ll have a need for them. No dinner suit is complete without them—jackets sit better and arms look longer with French cuffs. A perfect canvas for elegant cufflinks, they’re one status symbol you can display without fear of being ostentatious.

In deference to French cuffs, a man in a beautiful French-cuffed shirt can look better dressed than a barrel-cuffed contemporary. If he were to remove his jacket he’d still be attired in sophistication, while the latter will be in shirt sleeves. There’s not a particular science about it. Wearing French cuffs just feels more special.

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