What is a French cuff and why is it so French?
One of the most customizable components of a men’s dress shirt is the cuff. The differences between cuff styles largely come down to the way the cuff closes. While a standard button cuff may be the most common option these days, the French cuff is the OG.
So what is a French cuff, and why is it so French? Specifically, the term refers to a cuff that, instead of simply ending at your wrist, extends to twice the length of the cuff itself, and then is folded back.
Also, instead of being fastened with a button and button-hole, there are essentially buttonholes on both sides of the cuff, going through both layers. This means there are actually four buttonholes on each cuff.
Fun fact: French cuffs were originally made with six buttonholes – an extra set being added to the turned back segment. This way, as the edge of the cuff got dirty with wear, you could just move down a buttonhole with the dirty portion rolled under and hidden. Certainly handy in those pre-washing machine days.
Whether four holes or six, French cuffs are fastened with cufflinks – no button needed. Finally, rather than the sides overlapping, they are fastened face-to-face, also referred to as ‘kissing style.’
And why so French? To be honest, no one really knows, beyond the fact that the style originated in Europe, a long time ago. In fact, some sources actually point to England as the origin, and either way, the term itself wasn’t really used until the style migrated to America.
That said, the connotation behind the name kind of makes sense – French stuff is fancy, right? Traditionally, the French cuff is one of the most formal cuff styles. In fact, purists would say that French cuffs should be reserved for dinner jackets and tuxedos.
However, over the past few decades the style has been widely incorporated into business attire, though it’s still probably a stretch to wear it with a blazer or even a casual suit.
Thanks for reading.
He Spoke Style