Elaborating On Rule 13: Why You Do Not Wear Cufflinks Without A...

Elaborating On Rule 13: Why You Do Not Wear Cufflinks Without A Jacket

cufflinks without a jacket

So, I have this set of style ‘rules‘ that I have been known to live by.  The rules are really intended for dressing for business moreso than anything else.  That said, the rules almost always take a more conservative stance on any given issue.  Additionally, some rules are better to break than others.  However, one of them that should never be broken is Rule 13 (Thou shall not wear a French cuff (double cuff) shirt without a jacket).

Anyway, I received a pleasant email from a reader last week inquiring about some things and commenting on others (it is always nice to hear from my readers, whether they are agreeing or disagreeing with me).  At the end of his email he noted the following, “incidentally, not convinced Rule 13 is correct….. Lot of guys here [southwest England] wear jeans, double cuffs and cufflinks down to the pub!”  Well, naturally I had to respond,

I would like to substantiate rule 13.  First, just because many men do it, does not mean it is right.  Sadly, this holds especially true for men and their style in these times.  I can say pretty confidently that this holds true not just here in the States but also for England (at least London, I lived there a few summers ago so I think I got a pretty good idea of things).  If I was still getting my dressing cues from seeing what many other men dress I would look like a schmutz.  Second, the issue is primarily one of formality and taste.  Regarding formality; double (french) cuffs are much more formal than button (barrel) cuffs.  Formal to the point that they necessitate a jacket.  It would be like wearing a cashmere overcoat with sweat pants; it just doesn’t look right.  Regarding taste; no matter how subdued or simple a pair of cufflinks can be (such as your oval ones – they sound elegant, well played) they will always stick out.  Partially because the actual cuff does physically stick out, but also because the eye is drawn to the contrast that the cufflinks provide.  Sometimes this results in a very garish look, even with simple links.

As an anecdote I will leave you with this: it was my first day of training when I started at Deloitte.  I did not have the knowledge or appreciation for men’s style then that I do now.  I was sitting in the training room with my equals and a partner was lecturing us on the virtues of Deloitte’s company culture and diversity, terribly boring stuff.  However, the partner was quite interesting and witty; he was from London.  I forget what prompted him to comment but he did nonetheless.  He commented on me wearing cufflinks with no jacket, he said ‘gentlemen do not wear links without a jacket’ (for the record, I do not remember if I was wearing a jacket and had taken it off or was if I was being a garish shit and not wearing one at all, either way poor form on my part).  I have never worn cufflinks without a jacket since then.



  1. That is a great story… I buy all my shirts french cuff but 99% of the time my sleeves are rolled up so cufflinks are not involved.

  2. I work in an office and dress with suit and tie, but the first thing I do when I arrive to my desk is remove my jacket, so 99% of the time inside the office I am without a jacket.
    It is ok if I wear double cuff with cufflinks or silk knots or just look silly?
    I am struggling to find proper shirts with button cuffs, almost all the decent ones are double cuff.
    I was thinking that double cuff with silk knots matching the tie colour maybe looks fine. What do you think?

    • Ivan it is OK to Wear French cuff shirts with the Jacket Off.
      Cufflinks are beeter than silk knots IMHO.
      What I somwtimes do if i is hot Is roll the sleeves up but leave the cufflinks in. Then they don`t get lost.
      I do not subcribe to the idea that you cannot wear French cuff Shirts without a jacket. You need to be comfortable.

  3. My hubby is an exec general manager and wears french cuffs with cufflinks without the jacket ALL the time. His boss is CEO and does the same, albeit he does tend to wear a jacket more often than my husband. That partner at Deloitte probably just wanted to put you in your place and he kind sounds like a bit of a dick to even say that to a graduate. It’s a silly rule and far from the truth.

  4. Sounds like you let one bad experience with an authority figure overrule your own opinion.

    It’s true that many other people doing something doesn’t make it right (bandwagon fallacy) but it’s also a logical fallacy to say that an authority figure is right by default (appeal to authority fallacy).

    Just do what’s comfortable for you. Style is subjective and ever evolving. Cufflinks minus a jacket is a far cry from sweats and a cashmere coat. 😉

    • Zachary,
      The fact that I got called out for it has little to do with me thinking it is wrong or not. I just thought it to be a good anecdote. Although I certainly agree with you on the sweats and cashmere coat bit I think it is more a matter of good taste to not wear links sans jacket. I not only think it looks bad because of the width the cuff adds to your wrist but it is also a bit much to put the cufflinks out there like that. The jacket helps keep them slightly out of view, which I like. And then there is the whole argument of formalities…

      • meh… Zachary is right on the money… just like a kid witnessing a traumatic event.. that kid will always be affected by it the rest of his life, unless he seeks treatment, which even then may never eliminate effects of that event..

        i also believe that the sudden critique by your superior left an indelible mark on you.. as proven by you recalling the reason why you always wear a jacket when you wear cufflinks..

        good luck seeking treatment.. we will pray for you..

      • Let’s be honest here, if you are in a position of power say a CEO or GM nobody is going to give you shit for what you wear, but when you are on the lower of the ladder, you could be subject to any and all discrimination of what you wear.

      • The fact that you had been called out for wearing cufflinks without a jacket has everything to do with it. ‘I have never worn cufflinks without a jacket since then.’ It is just a Zachary has said. I am a law student in Edinburgh and at least three quarters of my shirts have French cuffs. I do not wear a suit everyday but always a shirt or some form of collar, I take my style very seriously. If it isn’t cold then I wear a sports jacket or cardigan & my French cuffs. I think the ensemble goes together very well. Just like if it is cold and I wear a sweater over my French cuffs all under a coat.

  5. I do not subscribe to the idea that you cannot wear French cuff shirts without a jacket either. But I am still evolving my style and admit that I choose to break some rules. All of my shirts are made to measure and ordered with French cuffs. If I wear a tie, they are always rolled down and linked. If I don’t wear a tie, they may be up or down, as the weather and mood strike me. Generally outside of the house or a casual party they are down and linked. At work in a two-piece I do not remove my jacket unless I’m doing some kind of physical work of moving boxes around or something. At my desk I just unbutton it. With a three-piece, I may remove the jacket, but usually don’t. I do remove my hat indoors and especially when eating, something too many men fail to do.

    • Joe,
      Thanks for sharing. I couldn’t agree more about the taking one’s hat off when eating. It bothers me so much, even if its at a pizza shop or bar – the most casual of establishments.

  6. Style is something personally forged. Taking style tips from some guy on the interwebs ranks right up there with taking your mum with you on a first date.

  7. Well that’s good for me to know, because I have a nine years old son and when I can find them I put him in cufflinks suits. With jeans or dress pants. So I guess the rules apply to him too.

  8. This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

    You can’t wear cufflinks without a jacket… but if you wear a jacket and then take it off it’s acceptable.

    Just think about that to yourself.

    You can damn well wear cufflinks without a jacket until your heart’s content. It’s PERFECTLY acceptable now, just like it was 50 years ago.

  9. I’ve seen little to no comment on this angle of the topic, so I’m curious what people have to say: what about non-French shirts with convertible cuffs (as they apply to wearing cufflinks without a jacket)?

    This would address the issue of the cuff being too eye-catching, but allow a little bit of fun flare to show through. I especially like what I’ve seen (though unfortunately haven’t figured out where to get it) in a convertible button, which hides when the cufflinks is in

  10. Technically, shirts are considered undergarments and going to work and taking your jacket off would be as indelicate as removing your trousers… or at least that is how it used to be. These days, it’s perfectly acceptable in everyday company to remove a jacket, leaving one’s French cuffs and their links exposed to the world. However, how one conducts himself in everyday circumstances is not how one should conduct himself in a business meeting or in a formal setting. You go to the beach, you wear trunks. Go to a formal event after 6 PM, you go black or white tie. Knowing what is appropriate for the event and the attendees is more important than a fixed set of rules. Anyone can make a rule but it takes some thought to know when it’s OK to break it.

  11. Eesh, I sincerely hope we aren’t all getting our fashion advice from accountants! I’ve never seen a more terribly dressed crowd than when a team from an NYC accounting firm came to our law firm to give a (boring) presentation on who-even-remembers-what.

    Cufflinks without jackets are commonplace at law firms, i-banks, and PE shops. Douchy? Sometimes. But sometimes you want to project douchiness.

  12. I agree with the rule, though I don’t think it need to be taken all the way to its ultimate conclusion. The starting point is simple – though shalt not leave the house in the morning, nor work in the evening, without a jacket if wearing french cuffs. In between, life goes on, and it is hot in the office remove your jacket. I actually like to roll up my sleeves if wearing a french cuff, though some might consider this to be a bit proletariat. But – at the bottom line – never, ever leave the house with cufflinks and no jacket. If you do so, you are a knob. If you do so wearing jeans, then you are a chav.

  13. I was just wondering at what level/service line you entered deloitte, because if it was your first day, I’d suppose the partner was rather commenting on you wearing cufflinks all together. I’m asking this because ever since I’ve been working for a big 4 company I’ve never seen anybody below Partner or in very rare cases managers wear cufflinks. (However my be different in the UK/US)

  14. Jeremy has got it right.
    If you are wearing a shirt without jacket, which is perfectly acceptable, then a double cuff shift would probably be too stiff and formal anyway. Wear a casual single cuff shirt, with khakis, chinos or jeans, tucked in of course. You may untuck with shorts.
    Furthermore, I have never thought jacket and jeans looks right in my opinion, and so I would never wear. If you want to wear a jacket then choose different trousers.

  15. Clearly the trauma of having a knob with wit finger you in front of your would be peers has turned you into the victim of fashion Oscar Wild called out before anyone knew he was out.
    “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

  16. I also have to disagree. I wear cufflinks all the time to add flair and my office is pretty casual so wearing a jacket (or a full suit) is only reserved for when we meet clients. I get compliments on my cufflinks all the time. What I will say is that I don’t wear especially formal cufflinks…links that are gold, especially fancy or expensive probably do look a little silly without a jacket on. But I tend to wear more casual ones (think St. Andrews cross or green oval) and, as I said, get regular compliments and I think it looks fine. As offices get more casual, if you reserve links for only when you are wearing a jacket, you will hardly ever get to wear them.