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!