French Cuffs are all Upside

Ocean's Eleven French cuffIt has been 18 months since I wrote a post entitled "Boots are Pure Upside," which posited that given the choice between buying a dress shoe and a dress boot, you might as well go with the boot. Ninety-nine percent of the people that see you in a day won’t see that far up your pant leg, so it looks like a shoe to them; the one percent that see it’s a boot will privately ? if not publicly ? marvel at your sense of style.

With the custom shirt trunk show we hosted a couple weeks back, I was shocked (and pleasantly surprised) at how many customers chose French cuffs over button cuffs. In discussing the relative pros and cons with those customers that were on the fence about French vs. button cuffs, I realized: French cuffs are pure upside.

Now, I’ve always had a strong personal preference for wearing cufflinks, but the reports show that button cuffs outsell French cuffs in our store and online 4:1. 

Tux Shirt as Sport ShirtSo what was driving the interest in French cuffs? I think it’s a growing realization that in today’s climate, where all the old "rules" are forgotten, ignored, or intentionally violated to make a statement, French cuffs end up being a more versatile option than regular old button cuffs. In other words, traditionally, a French cuff shirt would convey formality; certainly more formality than a regular cuff. However, men these days regularly wear suits without a tie, sport coats with denim, and tuxedo shirts without a dinner jacket (see photo at right). The common *ahem* thread running through these different looks is the juxtaposition of casual and dressy elements. The button cuff, on the other hand, will never convey the formality that French cuffs will, so the button cuff can’t quite play the part of the dressy element in an ensemble. Hence the newfound versatility of a French cuff shirt:

  • You can wear it with cufflinks under a suit as G-d intended;
  • You can wear it with a coat and no tie to dress up the ensemble;
  • You can wear it with jeans to dress up denim at a hip club or restaurant;
  • You can taunt the gods of fashion and wear them sans coat AND sans cufflinks a la Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven.

That last option is not a look I would endorse unless you look like Brad Pitt, but I think it illustrates the point that a French cuff shirt dresses up any outfit whether it’s a proper suit, or just a dress shirt with no coat or tie, or even as a shirt over jeans. Pure upside. 

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