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Barrel Cuffs vs French Cuffs, Which One is Better?

There is so much more to the quality of a dress shirt than its material, color, pattern, or even its collar. The cuffs are the one aspect that most people tend to ignore is, and quite possibly, the most important design feature on a high-quality dress shirt. The cuffs on a designer shirt will make you feel like , ready to fight your worst fashionably fiendish enemy.

If you haven’t got a clue of what we are talking about, here’s the essence of it. The cuffs of a shirt are that extra layer of fabric at the very end of a shirt sleeve. The most popular designs are those with just about double thickness of the shirt and they wrap around the wearer’s wrist with a single button.

The most popular types of cuffs are the barrel cuff and the French cuff. Let’s take a look at the difference between these designs and how they compare to each other.

The Barrel Cuff

Barrel Cuffs on White Shirt

Barrel cuffs with two buttons on a striped white shirt.

The barrel cuff is the most common type of cuff, and virtually every single shirt you will ever see in your life will be made with a barrel design.

These cuffs are traditionally made to be fastened with a single button, but there are barrel cuffs with two, three, and even more buttons. The addition of extra buttons will add some character to the shirt, so you might want to be careful when picking a shirt to be sure it reflects the style you are looking to achieve.

Shorter men are going to look better with single button cuffs as they give the illusion of longer arms. On the other hand, if you are on the tall end, you will find that shirts that have two or three buttons cuffs are likely to fit you well as they tend to be a tad longer in that area to accommodate for the extra buttons.

While the single button barrel cuff is the most popular design in the US, all you have to do is to cross the Atlantic, and you will find that double button cuffs are the standard design. The double cuffs were made popular in Europe in 1962 after the appearance of a cheeky variant, the Napolitan Cuffs, in the James Bond movie Dr. No.

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In general, single button cuffs are considered a more casual style, and shirt with two button cuffs are slightly more formal, something you might want to keep in that mind if you are picking a shirt for a formal occasion. An unintended benefit of a cuff design that has more than one button is that you always have a spare button close to hand if one of them falls off when you most need to look sharp.

These cuffs come in a variety of shapes with the most common being the angled cut, but you will find these cuffs in a straight, as well as a rounded design.

The French Cuff

French Cuffs on Blue Shirt and Jacket

French cuffs on a blue shirt with silver cufflinks.

The French cuff is, quite possibly, the most sophisticated of the cuff designs.

While its poor cousin, the barrel cuff is worn daily by virtually every single man on this Earth, the French cuff is reserved for the ones of us with the deepest pockets. In contrast to barrel cuffs, they don’t join together around the wearer’s wrist forming a circle but join at the ends creating a tear shape. Also, this design does not come with a button, so they require cufflinks to close.

This is a formal and sophisticated design that speaks loudly of its wearer. Unless your name is Bond, James Bond, this design is not something you will seeĀ people wearing every day.

If you are feeling a bit like this is the look for you, check our picks:

David Donahue Wing Collar French Cuff Dress Shirt
  • Look your best in this premium quality formal shirt perfect for special occassions
  • Regular fit cut in 100% Cotton cloth for ultimate comfort
  • Wing collar
  • French cuffs with refined French placket, side back pleats, and removable button strip to allow for stud set
  • Designed by David Donahue, Imported
Magnoli Clothiers Skyfall Crest Silver Plated Cufflinks
  • Silver Plated Cufflinks
  • Curved Swivel Back
  • Black Enamel Design
  • 19mm Diameter (3/4")

One thing to keep in mind when wearing a shirt with French cuffs is that cufflinks are not meant to be just a functional piece. These accessories are actually considered a type a men’s jewelry and, as such, they are also a symbol of status. If that’s your thing, you will find that Cufflinks are made out of gold, silver, and even pearls.

If you are looking for a stylish gift, these custom engraved cufflinks are a great idea.

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French Cuffs or Barrel Cuffs, Who Wins?

Well, by now you must have realized that these two designs are so far apart that no comparison would be just to either one.

The French cuff design might make you feel like you’re on the topic of your fashion game, but would you wear it to go to work? Unless your name starts with Sir, that just wouldn’t make much sense, would it? It is best to keep your French cuff designer shirt for the special occasions of your life such as weddings.

On the other hand, shirts with barrel cuffs are pretty much what you will need for everyday wear. I just need to make a choice on your own preference on the number of buttons. If you want a casual look, stay with a one button barrel cuff, and go with a two or three buttons design if you want to bring your style to a slightly more formal level.

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