Tips for wearing shirts with cufflinks

Tips for wearing shirts with cufflinks

Q. I’m confused about cufflinks and watches. How long is a shirt with cufflinks supposed to  extend beyond the jacket and should my smartwatch be underneath it? Also, if my shirt’s folded cuff has a bit of a permanent ring around the edge, is there anything wrong with folding it the other way? 

A. Well, those are very distinctly different questions. The length of a shirt sleeve and the position of a watch are rather common concerns, but I haven’t heard anyone ever ask about reversing a shirt’s French cuff rather than washing it. These answers are generally straightforward, but I will provide some context.

Traditional shirt sleeves should extend about a half-inch past your jacket’s sleeve. They may extend just slightly more when wearing a shirt with French cuffs. These cuffs should fold out (the flapping portion held by the links should be on the outside) and be clean.

For those unfamiliar, there are two types of shirt cuffs: button cuffs (those known as barrel cuffs with existing sewn buttons and buttonholes) are narrower than the folded French cuffs that are fastened with cufflinks instead of buttons. Ideally, a barrel cuff should fit closely to your wrist. When shirts are purchased in your correct size the cuffs are usually fine; but if the sleeves happen to be too wide, they will not hug your wrist properly; they will slide up and down on your arm and hang too far past your jacket’s sleeve. Also, if the cuff is wide enough that you can slide your hand through with the cufflinks on the shirt when you are putting it on, the cuffs are too wide for you and should be altered.

Of course, when you wear a watch, it’s important to have enough space under your cuff to fit the watch (that is, a watch that is appropriate to wear with that shirt). The fit should still be trim. Even with the differences in the size of watches, some watches are so large they cannot be paired with all of your shirts. If you buy custom or made-to-measure shirts, they can actually make one sleeve ever so slightly wider than the other to accommodate your watch while keeping the non-watch-wearing side snug.

Keep in mind that French cuffs are dressier than barrel cuffs. When you are dressed “up” enough to be wearing French cuffs, you should not wear a watch that is too-large or too-chunky. The shirt is a classic style and large watches are not, it is like mixing apples and oranges. You might consider owning a slim dress watch in addition to your smartwatch for more formal occasions.  

Returning to the half-inch measurement, some men prefer a bit more with French cuff shirts to show off their cufflinks; that bit more should not be beyond another 1/4 inch. Men who choose not to show any shirt at all beyond their jackets are making a major sartorial mistake. Once you decide your preferred length is and find a reliable manufacturer whose shirts fit you well, try to generally stick with that label, so you will not need to have a tailor make adjustments.

As to what you should do about the soil marks on the folded cuff of your French cuff shirt, you have two options: 1.] Pre-treat the marks with a concentrated application of detergent; allow it to sit overnight; then launder the shirt along with a few white terry towels added to the load to help scrub the mark. 2.] Have the French cuff replaced by a shirt specialist such as L. Almeier (212-243-7390). I’m afraid that if the ring does not disappear, the only true option is to get rid of it.  

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