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A debonair gentleman’s guide to shirt cuffs

We don’t spend nearly as much time on shirt cuffs as we ought to. But as they say, the devil’s in the details. A cuff acts as a system of closure on a shirt from the sleeves to the wrist and distinguishes a formal dress shirt from a casual one. “They are important to taper down the excess from the forearm to the wrist and also bring a certain design element to the shirt,” said renowned tailor Kevin Seah.

When choosing a cuff, it all boils down to your personal sense of style, and the occasion for which you’re wearing the shirt. For Seah, his preference is a classic single button 3″ barrel cuff (more on barrel cuffs below). Others might prefer a mitered cuff for a more elegant look, but no one can deny the polished formality of a French cuff.

Keep on reading for your guide to shirt cuffs.

(Illustrations by Nadine Christmas)

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Barrel Cuff

The barrel cuff is the most traditional cuff seen on button-down shirts. It’s usually fastened with one or two buttons (three is overkill), with one side overlapping the other. The versatility of the cuff allows it to be worn both casually and formally.

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Mitered Cuff

The mitered cuff is a barrel cuff with its edges cut off in a diagonal, 45-degree notch. This small detail elevates the standard cuff to a higher elegance and makes your overall look sharper.

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French Cuff

The French cuff is the most formal cuff anyone could wear. Also called the double cuff, it is seen primarily on dress shirts and is normally paired with tuxedos. To fasten the cuffs, pair them with cufflinks (more below). Avoid a sartorial faux pas by making sure you are wearing a blazer if you decide to wear French cuffs.

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Convertible Cuff

The convertible cuff is the best-kept secret amongst frequent fliers. You can wear it as a standard barrel cuff, or switch it up and wear it French-cuff style. This is possible because both flaps of the cuff have a buttonhole, so they can accommodate cufflinks too. Which makes it one less shirt to bring for the business traveller.

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Not too much sleeve

There are no set measurements of how much your shirt sleeve should show beneath your suit jacket. But as a general rule of thumb, a proper sleeve length should be half an inch, according to Seah. A good tailor will take this little detail into consideration.

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A quickie on cufflinks

Cufflinks are a symbol of personal style, said Seah. When attending a formal black-tie event, he recommends a more discreet pair of silver cufflinks. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to make a power play, opt for something bejewelled to highlight your personality. Take note: Your cufflinks should complement your outfit, not stand out like a ruby in a sea of emeralds.

Also no, this pair of Lifestyle Asia cufflinks is not for sale… yet.

A debonair gentleman’s guide to shirt cuffs

Josiah Neo is a tech writer who contributes occasionally to the fashion, travel, and culture beats. When he’s not busy keeping up with the keynotes, he’s probably stuffing his face with the best Melbournian donuts (at Shortstop, BTW) or watching his favourite esports team, the Los Angeles Valiant, pummel their opponents into oblivion.

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