Cuffs: Types and Uses

Cuffs are more than a place to display your cufflinks. Their use dates as far back as the 15th century. The major purpose of the cuff is to protect the garment and allow for wear and tear to be easily repaired. Though you may think you know all about cuffs, here are some interesting facts about them you may not know.


Generally, we think of shirt cuffs on button-down shirts, more formal than casual. The reality is that every shirt has a cuff. Back in the 15th century cuffs were more ornamental than today and were used to display fortune. Shirt cuffs can be divided by how they fasten. Barrel cuffs use a button — these are the most common on casual button-down shirts today. On higher quality and more formal shirts, you will often find french cuffs, requiring your best cufflinks or silk knot closures. For those who can’t decide, there is a convertible cuff allowing you to either button or use cufflinks.


Shirts don’t get all the fun. Pants have ends that need to be protected, replaced, and taken up as well. Hemming usually prevents the need for cuffs, especially with properly tailored items. Initially, individuals would cuff their pants to prevent getting them dirty while traveling on unpaved roads. It is more typical to see it as a fashion statement, when a child’s pants are too long, or when it’s raining, now.


Used like shirt cuffs, jacket cuffs essentially extend the wear of your favorite jacket. Formal jackets include embroidery, lace, and studs. Generally, it is accepted that the cuff of a jacket is more decorative than functional; however, winter jackets employ their elastic or snap cuffs to prevent heat from escaping out of your sleeve. Military dress uniforms use their cuffs to display rank, so pay attention while shaking their hands it will tell you the difference between a general and private.

Cuffs on garments were designed to lengthen the durability of the garment, aiding in saving money. Slowly as textiles became easier to come by, they became more of a decorative, elaborate item than necessary. Save your sleeves, cuff them!

Equality Through the Ages: The Revolutionary History of the Culotte

The fight for women’s rights can be tracked in many ways through fashion. From Rosie the Riveter whose trademark red polka dot bandana and striking pose mobilized working women during World War II to the would-be bra-burning at the 1968 Miss. America pageant that, despite the fact that no bras were actually burned, became a symbol of the second-wave feminist movement, fashion has served as a second skin reflecting social norms through time. Perhaps surprisingly, culottes — the wide-legged, flowing pant that has re-taken the fashion industry by storm — is no exception. 


Originally, culottes were popularized by French aristocratic men in the mid-1500s. As a result, they came to embody class distinctions across the French socioeconomic spectrum, with those who were too poor to afford them being termed sans-culottes (literally meaning “without culottes”). As the French Revolution came to a head in the late 1700s, it came to be recognized as a movement of the sans-culottes rising against the inequalities imposed by the culotte-wearing aristocratic elite. Regardless of the culottes’ heated origins, the wearing of these knee-length pants (sometimes referred to as “breeches”) continued to spread beyond France among European men. In fact, culottes were even donned by early U.S. presidents, reflecting their continued permeation among upper-class men.

Culottes Today

Today, women largely have horses to thank for the transition from culottes being recognized as a socially acceptable garment for women. Startup Fashion’s brief history of culottes discusses the development of the “split skirt” as a necessity for physically active Victorian women who wanted to more easily ride horses without having to depart too far from traditional female clothing styles; however, adoption of our modern conception of culottes was not always so readily accepted by society at large. Indeed, the appearance of a comparatively shortened culotte at Wimbledon in the early 1930s was met with public shock and outrage from major publications at the time.   

Of course, like any fashion, seasons change and culottes eventually became less a topic about gender and more about style itself. Even though the look of culottes has continued to evolve and their popularity has waxed and waned over the past decades, they nevertheless remain an embodiment of critical social revolutions that have shaped the very fabric of global societies. Indeed, a walk in today’s culottes is an indirect stroll through the history of France, feminism, and the fight for equality for all.