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.