French cuffs can transform a dress shirt

French cuffs can transform a dress shirt

Q. Is there a way to have the cuffs on my shirts turned into French cuffs? I have a number of pairs of cuff links and only one shirt to wear them with, and would rather change some of the non-French cuffed ones that I like than buy more. And/or would it be wrong to do so?

A. It would not be at all wrong and, yes, you can certainly have your conventional button-cuffed shirts (known as barrel cuffs) changed into French cuffs so you can wear your cuff links on them. It makes sense to alter some of the shirts you own to accommodate a nice collection of cuff links. The problem, unfortunately, is that very few tailors are equipped to perform this very specific type of alteration. But, if you check with your local tailors, you may still find one or two.  

To explain further, unlike barrel-cuff shirts (which cannot accommodate cuff links), French-cuff shirts have buttonholes, but no buttons; they’re designed to be worn with cuff links. Many men like them because they are dressier and more formal than barrel-cuff shirts and because wearing cuff links adds a note of personal style and individuality to a man’s combination. (Women are fond of French cuff shirts for the same reasons, plus one more: they make for easy gift choices since buying cuff links does not require knowing a man’s exact size.)

At current inflated prices for men’s fine-quality dress shirts (many sell for up to $300 and more), it can be a wise decision to have a few favorite shirts that you already own brought back to life and/or customized to suit your preferences. Various alterations can be made to shirt sleeves: they can be changed from barrel cuffs to French cuffs (or the reverse); they can be shortened; frayed cuffs can be “turned” so they don’t look worn; and the cuffs can be completely replaced, usually with new white shirting fabric (the resulting white contrast-cuff-and-collar shirts are not as popular today as they once were, but they have always been liked by sophisticated dressers).

Other possible shirt tailoring options include getting rid of excess fabric for a more modern slim-fit silhouette, or adding a monogram (for those who feel others need to know their initials). 

If you cannot find a nearby tailor who does this sort of work, you might contact T, Mancino in Larchmont, NY. They do all manner of shirt alterations and repairs (914-834-9373). They are not inexpensive, but their work is very professional. Prices vary from $40 for changing a button cuff to a French cuff, and $20 for turning a frayed collar, to $50 for adding a completely new collar.  

These days, when fewer men are wearing neckties, their shirts take on added importance. Because the shirt is close to the face and usually a lighter color than the other garments you are wearing, it tends to attract the eye’s focus. It’s logical to pay more attention to every shirt detail and to make certain that your shirts project perfection.

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