Style Defined: French Cuff

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.

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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Fun fact: French cuffs were originally made with six buttonholes – an extra set being added to the turned back segment.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.

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| BRIAN WEARS | Ring Jacket suit, Edward Sexton shirt, Drake’s tie, Piaget watch | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo

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.

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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.

And on the other side of the spectrum, French cuffs are still the expectation when you are dressing formally. Anything less for a black tie event is just plain sloppy, my friends!

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Adam Lehman
He Spoke Style

Chime In

  • https://luigisaladini.fashion.blog Luigi Saladini

    Nice to know. Thanks for useful article.

  • Chris Betty

    Thanks for posting about this. I’m glad to hear that they’re more widely incorporated into business attire. Starting a new job in a corporate setting and I’ve been feeling like pushing the envelope a little and incorporating some french cuffs with pared down links/silk knots for day-to-day.

  • Forrest Howe

    Where do cuffs that require cuff links but don’t fold back fit in this scheme?