How To Wear French Cuffs

How To Wear French Cuffs

Are you not sure when and where to wear French cuffs? We’ve got you covered! Read on for all you need to know about French cuffs and how to wear them.

Read more Men’s Style Guide features

French cuffs can portray both class and power if worn correctly. They’re considered more formal than button cuffs and are particularly popular in European business environment.

French Cuffs

Some believe that French cuffs were born when Napoleon ordered extra long sleeves so his soldiers could wipe their noses on the cuff and then hide it by folding the excess back. Another story says that French cuffs were invented to prevent Napoleon’s soldiers from wiping their noses on their sleeves. Unfortunately, even though these stories are entertaining, neither of them is true. Believe it or not, French cuffs weren’t invented by the French – they were actually invented by the British.

french cuffs mens style

What Are French Cuffs

Your shirt cuff is the only visible part of the shirt – besides the collar, when you wear your jacket. They’re divided into three types. The first one is button cuffs and these are also often called barrel cuffs.

  • Button cuffs

Are single cuffs that wrap around your wrist and are buttoned into place. You can find this type of cuff on almost every ready made shirt. Button cuffs have buttonholes on the one side and buttons on the other. The can either have a single button or more (usually two buttons) to make the fit more adjustable. If you’re wondering why there sometimes is a small button on the sleeve, between the cuff and the end of the cuff opening, it’s to keep this area closed and to prevent exposing your wrist.

  • Link cuffs

Have buttonholes on both sides, and therefore, aren’t meant to be closed with buttons, but either cufflinks or silk knots.

  • French cuffs

Also called, double cuffs, are a type of link cuffs. French cuffs are twice as long as button cuffs and are the most formal option of shirt’s cuffs. These double cuffs are folded back and fastened with cufflinks or fabric knots. Cufflinks/ knots should always be worn, and therefore, we recommend keeping a varied selection on hand.

  • Convertible cuffs

Can be closed with either buttons or cufflinks.

french cuff cufflink

French Cuff Buttons

As we’ve already mentioned, French cuffs have buttonholes on both sides and are meant to be closed with cufflinks or fabric knots. There are many different styles of buttons and fastenings you can use to close you cuff, or if you are in a more casual environment then you might consider going for the undone cuff look.

French Cufflinks

There are many different ways men’s shirt sleeves can be kept closed. We’re going to introduce five types of cufflinks, however, there are many more style to be found just look on the market for some great alternatives.

Silk Knots

If you’re looking for the most informal option, silk knots might be the ones for you! They’re usually made from a colourful yarn material and will definitely add a playful twist to your outfit. If you work in the office and you wish to wear French cuffs without overdressing your work wardrobe, you should consider buying silk knots. You can purchase a whole selection of these as they don’t tend to be very expensive.

silk knot french cuff

Bullet Back Closures

Bullet back closure is the most commonly used type of cufflink, this one is probably the easiest to put on as well. This style consists of a bullet shaped capsule that is suspended between two posts. You should turn up the bullet when inserting it into shirt and then secure it when closed downwards. There are many modern as well as vintage styles to choose from. Some guys even decide to have their initials engraved to personalise their bullet back closures. Keep in mind, that this type of cufflinks is much more formal than previously mentioned silk knots.

Bullet Back Closures french cuffs cufflinks
PHOTO CREDIT: My Stainless Steel Jewellery

Onyx Studs

Don’t worry, onyx studs are lightweight and they look the most like typical sewed shirt buttons. Since these studs are the tightest fitted links, be aware that they’re also the most difficult to apply. If you have a formal event coming up and lack the accessories, you might want to check onyx studs out! They should last you a lifetime.

onyx studs french cuffs

Ball Return

Ball return operates similarly to the mentioned studs. They’re really easy to apply and if you wish to create a bit more relaxed fit, you might want to choose ball return over onyx studs. The ball return cufflinks are fixed in place so don’t look for any moving pieces!

ball return cufflinks french cuffs

Whale Back Closures

Whale back closures operate in a similar way to the bullet back closures. Cufflinks with a whale back closure style consist of a straight post with a flat whale tale backing that is meant to fit flat against the post. Prior to inserting into shirt, the whale back closure flips up against the middle post. Once you’ve inserted the links, you should flip whale back down to lock cufflinks into place. This type of cufflink will definitely help you make a fashion statement at your upcoming very formal business event.

whale back closures mens stylish cufflinks

There are also other types of cufflinks. Chain links also belong to the popular ones and might be the perfect option for you if you’re looking for more comfortable and relaxed fit. Locking cufflinks are probably the most modern option of cufflinks you can purchase at the moment. You need to push both sides in order to lock this practical yet still classy men’s jewellery.

how to use cufflinks

When Are French Cuffs Appropriate

So now you know what French cuffs are, and what types of cufflinks you can choose from. We need to look at when should you actually wear French cuffs? Continue reading to find out how to wear French cuffs. There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to French cuffs and you’ll definitely find many different answers to this question. The more traditional opinion is to wear them only to very formal occasions. The main idea behind this is that French cuffs used to be worn by the privileged class.

French Cuffs With A Suit

Edward VII, the Duke of Windsor, Winston Churchill, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and many other famous people were spotted rocking French cuffs with their suits. You can pull this classy look off too!

If you want to wear French cuffs to formal occasions, you should keep in mind that they should be worn with a suit jacket at all times. However, some guys manage to pull off French cuffs with a blazer or a sport jacket. If you plan to wear French cuffs to a formal event where wearing a suit jacket is part of the events dress code, keep in mind that French cuffs should be accompanied by a black tie. Don’t forget to secure your French cuffs with appropriate cufflinks. You may wish to wear onyx studs or whale back closures. Silk knots might be a bit too casual for a very formal event.

french cuffs suit

However, if you’re going to attend a bit more social event, don’t be afraid to express your personal style! A bright silk knot will add colour to your outfit and will definitely make it more exciting. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing colourful knots, than just forget about it and choose a more formal option as you can never go wrong with keeping it classy!

If you want to wear French cuffs to informal event, you can also pair them with a blazer and a pair of jeans. The main rule is to keep a quarter to half inch of shirt sleeve visible at all times no matter what type of jacket you decide to wear. This traditional sleeve length rule is especially important for French cuffs as your cufflink needs to be exposed too.

How To Wear A French Cuff Shirt

A French cuff shirt is a type of dress shirt and a proper dress shirt is a button up shirt with a collar, long sleeves and wrist cuffs. Even though dress shirts range in prices, most of them tend to be made from a cotton fabric and then dyed into many different colours.

mens french cufflinks

As we’ve already mentioned, French cuff shirts should always be worn with a jacket. You can wear a suit jacket for more formal occasion and only pair French cuffs with a sport jacket if you believe you have enough confidence to pull this look off!

Casual French Cuff Shirts

Even though many people would disapprove, French cuffs can be worn in a casual environment. For instance, Tom Ford has been rocking French cuff shirts without a tie as his signature look for many years! And if he isn’t a style icon, we don’t know who is.

Fashionable guys all over the world prove that French cuffs can be pair with a well fitted open-collar dress shirt. Imagine a stylish Italian guy wearing this elegant yet sporty combination on his dinner date. Will he drape a sport coat over his shoulders when it gets a bit colder?

You don’t have to be an Italian guy to rock a similar look, however, you need to be confident. Try picking colourful knots that go well with your style.

Red French Cuff Dress Shirts

Make a smart style statement with red French cuff dress shirts. Again, you’ll need a bit more confidence than usual to pull this look off. You’ll definitely make a few heads turn, so make sure your outfit is spot on!

red french cuff dress shirt
PHOTO CREDIT: Dressing Room Boutique

History Of French Cuffs

Before the 1500s, the shirt was only regarded as undergarment and if you exposed your shirt sleeves at that time, it would’ve been viewed as breach of etiquette. The times have changed and from the early 1500s, small ruffles, ancestors of today’s cuffs, along with strings were used to keep sleeves closed.  Before buttons became the most popular cuff-tying method, 16th century upper classes were using very elegant ribbons to prevent their shirt sleeves from opening.

Alexander Dumas popularised French cuffs and cufflinks in his novel The Count of Monte Cristo. The French cuffs became popular through the character of Baron Danglars, the wealth-obsessed banker. The author provided a detailed description of how this character wore French cuff dress shirts and how he paired them with flashy bejewelled cufflinks. The author’s detailed description inspired many fashion designers, particularly in Europe.

French cuff dress shirts were a symbol of luxury and power and were only worn by royalty and successful and wealthy merchants. However, thanks to Industrial revolution, cufflinks were made in a great volume and were later adopted by the middle class in the Victorian era.

Even though they were traditionally considered very formal, French cuffs became very versatile and can now be worn with less formal outfits or even without a tie or jacket.

french cuff mens accesories

Your Guide To Wearing French Cuffs

  • There are three types of shirt’s cuffs – button cuffs, link cuffs and convertible cuffs.
  • French cuffs are a type of link cuffs and they’re twice as long as button cuffs and are the most formal option of shirt’s cuffs.
  • Cufflinks or silk knots should always be worn with French cuffs.
  • Silk knots are the most colourful and also most informal option mentioned in this article.
  • Bullet back closure is the most commonly used type of cufflink and is also really easy to put on.
  • Ball return, onyx studs, whale back closures, chain links and locking cufflinks are other types of cufflinks.
  • You should always wear a suit jacket to a formal event.
  • Always keep a quarter to half inch of shirt sleeve visible if you wear a jacket.
  • You can wear French cuffs shirts men with a blazer or a sport jacket to casual events.
  • French cuffs can also be paired with a well fitted open-collar dress shirt and a sport coat.
  • Red French cuff dress shirts will help you make a fashion statement.

On That Note…

We hope this article inspired you to give wearing French cuffs a try! So get yourself a nice selection of cufflinks and remember to wear colourful silk knots for less formal occasions. Don’t forget to wear French cuffs with confidence at all times!


The Manual

  • Style
  • Life
  • Collective
  • Grooming
  • News
            Brand Introduction: TAIKAN

            Brand Introduction: TAIKAN

            Functional, desirable and purposeful, three key elements which make up the foundation of TAIKAN (pronounced 'taken') the accessory brand to know.

            read more
            Rugby Shirt Revival

            Rugby Shirt Revival

            The classic rugby shirt is having a moment.   When worn off the pitch the rugby shirt was once a clear indicator of a public school-educated chap w...

            read more