History Of French Cuffs

Posted on 23 January 2018

Before the 1500s, the shirt was only regarded as an undergarment and if you exposed your shirt sleeves at that time, it would’ve been viewed as a 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.



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 cuff dress shirts were a symbol of luxury and power and were only worn by royalty and successful and wealthy merchants. However, thanks to the 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 nowadays.

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