French cuffs –much like pocket squares— are one of the most confusing sartorial subjects in existence. Most guys don’t know when they should or shouldn’t wear them — let alone how they should be worn, or the subtle style points that make them actually work with an outfit. For this reason, we’ve done a comprehensive assessment of the French cuff landscape, and asked all the style gurus we know for their thoughts on the subject. Now, we’re here to report back. Here’s everything you need to know about French cuffs.
The first and most helpful thing to keep in mind is that French cuffs are intended for more formal occasions. Knowing this should help guide you not only in regards to how the cuffs should be worn, but also when and where it’s appropriate to sport them. Here are some rules that follow this maxim:
As they are more formal attire, French cuffs should not be worn every day. Unless you’re a mob boss or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you should probably skip the Frenchies and just go with a normal barrel cuff.
Generally speaking, French cuffs should only be worn with suit jackets. If you’ve got that certain je ne sais qois about you and know how to wear them without overpowering your outfit, then you might be able to pull off French cuffs with a blazer or a sport coat, but in most situations, it’s best to keep them formal and stick to the suit jacket.
Similarly, since you’ll typically be wearing them at a formal event that requires a suit jacket, French cuffs will almost always be accompanied by a tie. Whether it’s a bowtie or a necktie is up to you, but skipping the tie altogether is ill-advised in most situations.
French cuffs should always be secured with cufflinks. No exceptions. We know you’ve probably seen Brad Pitt or Joaqin Phoenix rocking that casually-formal look with wantonly unfastened French cuffs, but this look is unbecoming on just about everyone else. It just looks messy, and gives the impression that you either don’t care how you look, or simply don’t know how to wear a double cuff shirt properly. To this end, cuffs should always be fastened in the “kissing” position so that they form a sort of teardrop shape around your wrist — not rolled into a barrel shape like normal cuffs.
Choose a cufflink that compliments your ensemble, not one that overpowers it. Feel free to express your own personal flair here, but don’t overdo it, and let the context of the situation guide your decision. If the event you’re attending is more professional, skip the loud links and go with something more subdued. If it’s more social, go ahead pick one with a snappy color — just always ask an honest friend if it looks too tacky or loud before you go out. Keep it classy and you’ll never go wrong.
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