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Double (French) Cuff and Single Cuff in Dress Shirts: How and When to Wear Them

The dress shirt is an essential piece in a man’s (and indeed a woman’s) wardrobe. Men’s apparel traditionally receives little attention; less for classic styles, and almost none at all the dress shirt. Nevertheless, the dress shirt can make or break a man (and a woman), and there are numerous nuances that make big differences.
One aspect that is not completely nuanced is the cuff. Today, let’s look at the consideration between double and single cuffs. There are other, more nuanced aspects of cuffs on dress shirts; I will follow up on them in the next article.

Single and Double Cuffs

The double cuff is constructed to be twice as long as the single cuff. In the middle, it is folded back up. There are four buttonholes, two on each side of the slit. When folded back, the four buttonholes can be aligned, and a cufflink is inserted to secure the cuff.
Traditionally, the double cuff is worn “kissing”, with both ends of the cuff pointing outward at the slit. Some fashion-forward individuals may experiment with wearing the double cuff closed, in a “barrel-style”.
Single cuffs do not have this fold. While some mistakenly believe that the single cuff equals the buttoned cuff, there are dress shirts with single cuff (usually high-end or tailored ones) that requires a cufflink to close.
The single, buttoned cuff has usually a single button at one end and a buttonhole at the other. It is then secured by the button in the barrel-style.

Formality and Occasions

Formal dress shirts (those intended for formal, black tie or white-tie events) have either double or single cuffs, and almost always require cufflinks.
For everyday occasions, the double cuff is dressier than the buttoned single cuff. Depending on the population, they may be viewed as conservative (e.g. in business meetings) or as fashion-forward (in the “real-world”).
The single cuff with cufflink is even dressier than the double cuff. Unless the wearer is the boss or an artist (or designer, architect, etc.), it may be inappropriate on business occasions, because they may draw too much attention (and perhaps subconsciously envy).
The single, buttoned cuff is the most common. On a dress shirt, they are the quietest. In the Italian style, they are the norm. They excel in not drawing unwanted attention, while a well-made dress shirt accentuates the sense of taste and style with more nuanced touches.

A lot of the above hold true for the women’s dress shirt, too.