At the end of your shirt sleeves are cuffs, and at the end of those cuffs are your hands, which are both exposed (unless you’re wearing gloves) and expressive. When you point at something, reach for the check or extend your hand to shake that of another, your shirt cuff is momentarily front and center.
In simple terms, there are three types of shirt cuffs:
A Barrel cuff is the most common and least likely to draw any special attention. Usually it has a rounded corner and fastens by one button, though a two-button cuff is favored by many who have their shirts custom made.
A French cuff (aka “double cuff”) is the most formal and substantial of cuffs, and the most likely to garner both attention and respect. Consisting of a double-fold of cloth and requiring the use of cuff links, French cuffs are both dressy and sophisticated, providing a more formal and finished appearance. When the occasion demands a substantial statement, the extra minute or two it may take to put them on will be more than worth the effort.
A link cuff, though viewed dimly by French cuff purists, is popular among those who like to wear cuff links, but want it to be as easy as possible. In this case, the cuff is made similar to a barrel cuff, but instead of fastening with a button there is simply a button hole on each side of the cuff. Should you ever need to wear a full dress/white tie ensemble, a link cuffed pique shirt is the proper shirt. Taking link cuffs one step further (to the chagrin of some and the delight of others), a convertible cuff if one that includes both the button of a barrel cuff and the extra buttonhole of a link cuff, giving the wearer the ultimate in versatility.
It may go without saying, but because of what I have witnessed and requests that I have heard, say it I must: it is not advisable to wear French cuffs with button-down collars. Though it is possible to have a shirt made that way, it flies in the face of protocol. If you are contrarian by nature, then by all means, have it your way. As a rule, French cuffs go with formal or dressy collars. Shirts with button-down collars should have barrel cuffs.
A final thought: Considering your upcoming social calendar, in the event that you will be drinking beer from a plastic solo cup, then go with barrel cuffs. You will probably want to roll up your sleeves anyway. If, on the other hand, you will be drinking a martini (whether shaken or stirred) from a classic cocktail glass, then go French.
Always in style, from head to…wrist,