The cocktail cuff is not a monolith. The cuff that Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig have immortalised in eleven James Bond films has many names—turnback cuff, casino cuff, flowback cuff, Portofino cuff, Neapolitan cuff, Milanese cuff, James Bond cuff—and it has even more designs. A cocktail cuff is all about its artistic design since it serves no purpose compared to an ordinary barrel button cuff other than to decorate the wrist. This contrasts with cufflinks, which are both decorative and functional.
Because the cocktail cuff has the functionality of buttons but with an additional decorative aspect, some people think of it as being between a button cuff and a double (French) cuff in formality. In practice there are few limits to how it can be worn.
The cocktail cuffs is like a turn-down collar for the wrist. Just as collars can have a multitude of designs, cocktail cuffs can have almost as many variations. The difference between cocktail cuff designs may not matter as much as the difference between a wide cutaway collar and a narrow point collar, but the differences are still significant.
The following analysis is what I have uncovered in my exploration of cocktail cuffs from many shirtmakers over the past 15 years. The information here comes from my experiences wearing cocktail cuffs designed by Frank Foster (the ultimate master of the cocktail cuff), Turnbull & Asser, Mason & Sons, Budd, New & Lingwood, Poggianti and Mel Gambert as well as examining cocktail cuffs designed by Tom Ford, Charvet, Udeshi, Anto, Sean John, Brooks Brothers, Finamore Napoli, Borrelli, H. Huntsman, Sean O’Flynn, Stephen Lachter and others.
None of the illustrations in this guide are exact copies of cuffs from the shirtmakers and designers mentioned above. They demonstrate concepts that these shirtmakers and designers use, and I pay homage to them through my own interpretations. The best way to get a good cocktail cuff shirt is to go to a good shirtmaker who understands how to design a cuff that looks and performs its best.
1. The Parts of the Cuff
I’m not aware of any technical terms for the parts of a cocktail cuff, so I will need to make up my own. Figure 1.1 defines the terms I’ll be using throughout this guide.
The cuff can be separated into the stand (like a collar stand or collar band), which houses the buttons and sits against the wrist, and the turnback (like a collar leaf), which is the cuff’s additional decorative layer that folds back on top of the stand. The cuff’s shape can be broken down into the curve and spread of the turnback, the contour of where the cuff folds, the depth of the cuff, the buttons and the interfacing. These aspects will all be further delineated. A good cocktail cuff can be mix and match these various parts of different cuff designs.
When the cuff is folded back, as seen in Figure 1.2, the buttons should be centred between the spread. The turnback on the button side of the cuff should not overlap either the turnback or the stand on the buttonhole side of the cuff. The two sides must come together neatly, and the turnback should be longer than the stand.
2. The Curve
A cocktail cuff’s most defining feature is the curve of the corners of its turnback section. The whole turnback may have a large curve (Figure 2.1), like Sean Connery’s James Bond’s Turnbull & Asser cuffs. The corners of the turnback may have a small curve (Figure 2.2), like Roger Moore’s James Bond’s Frank Foster cuffs or Turnbull & Asser’s ready-to-wear cocktail cuff design.
One of the most elegant shapes is the hyperbolic curve (Figure 2.3), where a gentle curve eases into a sharper curve. It’s like the corner of a cushion-cut diamond. The ease can come from both sides or just one. Roger Moore’s cuffs in Live and Let Die have a hint of a hyperbolic curve. The design of the curve isn’t limited to these illustrations and can be finessed in countless ways.
Some cocktail cuffs have a turnback with squared or angled corners (Figure 2.4), but this is not a desirable feature because it can inhibit the cuff’s ability to slide through a jacket’s sleeve. Squared cocktail cuffs are more likely to flare out from the wrist than rounded cuffs, and a sharp corner is more likely to get stuck inside a jacket sleeve. Women’s cocktail cuffs are designed like this more often than men’s are because they may see the flare as more desireable, and they are more likely to wear their cocktail-cuff shirts without a jacket. Nevertheless, the ends of cocktail cuff should always be shaped with a curve, even if it’s a very small curve. As a matter of taste, an angled corner looks unrefined and unfinished.
Figure 2.5 shows a cuff that curves into a corner. While this is an improvement over the sharper corner in Figure 2.4, the corner will still create unnecessary friction inside a jacket sleeve. Rounding off the corner just a little can make a tremendous improvement.
Though mitred button cuffs are common, and mitred double cuffs have been known to show up on James Bond from time to time, I’ve never seen a cocktail cuff with mitred corners. I don’t think anyone has done this design for good reason, as it would lack the elegance of a curved cuff and the simplicity of a squared or angled cuff.
3. The Spread
The cocktail cuff’s spread is determined by both the angle of the turnback and the ‘tie space’-like area between where the two sides of a fastened cuff folds over.
The turnback can be angled away from the buttons in different ways, from being parallel with the buttons like a straight collar, as in Figure 3.1, to being angled away like a spread collar, as in Figure 3.3. Most cocktail cuffs are like Figure 3.2 and somewhere in between. Because of how the wrist is conical, even a straight-cut turnback will spread apart a little. The angle on the wrist always looks a little wider than it does on paper.
The primary guideline for the limit of how much the cuff can be spread is that it should cover at least half the wrist at the end of the turnback’s curve, otherwise it tends to look purposeless. A larger wrist can accommodate a wider spread with a more severe angle.
Sean Connery’s Turnbull & Asser cocktail cuffs in his EON-series Bond films have quite a wide spread, while Roger Moore’s Frank Foster cocktail cuffs in The Man with the Golden Gun and Moonraker are considerably narrower. Narrower cocktail cuffs do better at staying neatly inside a jacket sleeve. Some shirtmakers may choose to coordinate their cocktail cuff spread with their collar spread by pairing a wider cocktail cuff with a wider collar or a narrower cocktail cuff with a narrower collar, but this is not necessary.
Narrower spread angles need ‘tie space’ in the design so that the turnback portion of the cuff does not overlap at the fold. A cocktail cuff should also display the buttons, not hide them. While this is mainly an aesthetic choice, cocktail cuffs are much easier to fasten after they’ve been folded back and when the buttons aren’t hidden. Folding back the cuff after it has been fastened around the wrist—a necessity if the buttons are hidden—ends up in a wrinkled cuff.
Most cocktail cuff designs have some sort of contour to prevent these issues. Figure 3.1 shows more ‘tie space’ than Figure 3.2, and because of this space these two cuffs would have approximately the same spread even though the angles are different. More ‘tie space’ can be added to any spread angle, so long as the turnback is still wide enough to cover half the wrist.
4. The Contour
The contour affects how the cuff folds over at the buttons. A kink in the shape provides a defined place where the cuff is intended to fold, but not all cocktail cuffs have this design.
Some cocktail cuffs, like in Figure 4.1, have a very simple contour that is shaped with one continuous curve. Sean Connery’s cocktail cuffs from Turnbull & Asser and Roger Moore’s cocktail cuffs in Live and Let Die from Frank Foster have a seemingly simple shape without a complicated contour. However, this cuff needs to be carefully shaped so when buttoned the turnback doesn’t overlap on itself or so the stand doesn’t overlap the turnback. In the case of a two-button cuff it means that the curve begins between the two buttons with the second button placed closer to the edge of the cuff. The buttons on this design may need to be both placed closer to the edge of the cuff than in other designs.
This cuff tends to roll above the button fastening and thus protrude from the wrist. Some think this looks elegant while others find it cumbersome. The cuff needs to roll to avoid the turnback from overlapping on itself. To allow the roll, the second button needs to be placed further down from the fold than it does in other cuff designs.
This shape has two significant advantages. The first is that when only the first of two buttons is fastened, the cuff can elegantly roll over the second button that’s closer to the fold like the lapels on a three-roll-two jacket. Connery wears his cuffs like this in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. This is especially useful if the sleeve is too long, which brings us to this style’s second advantage. Because the cuff has a smooth, continuous shape, it is possible to fold it in a range of positions for minute adjustments to the sleeve length. Connery’s Turnbull & Asser cuff allows for sleeve length adjustments of about 2 cm.
Most cocktail cuffs have a kink of some sort to allow them to fold flat on the wrist. The second button ideally should be close to where the cuff folds to force the cuff to fold in a certain position and to prevent it from rolling outwards. Figure 4.2 shows a typical contour for a cocktail cuff with a gently curved shape. When the cuff is folded, it appears to have a continuous shape like Figure 4.1 but it lies flatter on the wrist. The Tom Ford ‘Dr No’ cuff as seen in Spectre and No Time to Die is shaped like this.
Figure 4.3 has a similar shape to 4.2 but has a mitred corner from the stand into the contour. Turnbull & Asser’s standard ready-to-wear cocktail cuff is shaped like this and Frank Foster occasionally makes cuffs in this style. This efficient design ensures that the stand of the cuff never rolls back.
The cuff in Figure 4.4 shows the contour that Frank Foster usually use. It curves in above the button and the turnback angles outwards. This contour resembles the stand of a typical shirt collar and is the only contour that delineates a specific spot where the cuff must fold. Other contours have a little flexibility at the fold point. This cuff also resembles a collar that has a lot of ‘tie space’ (when compared to a collar), the space from the edge of the stand to where the turnback folds over. This ‘tie space’ can be varied in the design. Mason & Sons do their cocktail cuff similarly, but with less ‘tie space’ than Frank Foster’s cuff has.
I own a cuff designed by Darren Tiernan of Budd Shirtmakers that is like Figure 4.4 but has a mitred cut from the edge of the stand into the turnback instead of a curve. It’s like a combination of Figures 4.3 and 4.4.
Figure 4.5 has a gentle contour that starts lower on the cuff so that the second button is further in from the first button. This makes the cuff fasten around the wrist in a slightly conical shape, following the taper of the wrist to the hand. A conical cuff prevents the cuff from sliding down over the hand. The gentle kink at the fold prevents the turnback from overlapping itself, but this design as illustrated may have a slight roll. Turnbull & Asser used to make their ready-to-wear cocktail cuff with this shape. The tapered cuff stand can be applied to any of the other contours.
5. Contours to Avoid
Cocktail cuffs from lesser shirtmakers are frequently poorly designed, and the issues are most frequently in how the cuff is contoured. These designs might make sense at first glance, but in practice they do not function proficiently. Figure 5.1 shows a common design where the stand of the cuff is squared and the turnback is offset from the edge. In this cuff, the square corner tends to roll back and doesn’t sit flush when the buttonhole side overlaps the button side.
The cuff in Figure 5.2 has what appears to be a good shape that is similar to Figure 4.3, but the contour is poorly positioned because it starts at the fold and it starts too far from the second button. This will result in the corner rolling back. Figure 4.3 shows how to correct this. Some shirtmakers resort to stiff fusing, starching and ironing to get these two cuff designs to look neat, but those techniques cause premature wear and an uncomfortable cuff. I never recommend ironing the fold of a cocktail cuff.
Figure 5.3 shows a cuff with a smooth shape similar to Figure 4.1 that will roll back neatly, but because the cuff’s contour doesn’t start until the place where it folds, when the cuff is buttoned either the turnback will overlap on itself or the stand will overlap the turnback. This makes the cuff difficult to button and it makes the cuff look clunky.
6. Cuff Depth
The turnback needs a minimum depth of 7 cm/2.75 in to stay tucked inside of a jacket sleeve, but 7.5 to 8 cm/3 to 3.25 in is better at ensuring the cuff stays inside a jacket sleeve. A deep turnback means that the cuff will stay in place better, but if the turnback is too deep—more than 9 cm/3.5 inches—it looks unbalanced, especially on someone with short arms. The turnback depth may be loosely correlated to the length of the shirt’s collar points, but it’s not necessary.
The stand should be at least 5 mm/.25 in shorter than the turnback so that the turnback covers the seam where the cuff is sewn to the sleeve. The fold itself takes up a couple millimetres, so a 5 mm difference should be enough to ensure the turnback is slightly longer than the stand, as seen in Figure 6.2. Frank Foster do their cuffs this way. When the sleeve is gathered into the cuff rather than pleated, as both Frank Foster and Turnbull & Asser do, the gathers elegantly emerge from under the turnback.
In Figure 6.1, the turnback overlaps much more of the sleeve so there’s no possibility of accidentally revealing the cuff seam. Turnbull & Asser’s cuff designs are like this, and I find the slightly shorter stand a little more comfortable around the wrist that a deeper stand.
The cuff in Figure 6.3 has the turnback just long enough to meet the stand of the cuff, showing the cuff-to-sleeve seam. It doesn’t reveal the stand, but it’s not as elegant as the previous two designs. While it’s not an ideal design, it’s not necessarily problematic either. Mason & Sons’ and Tom Ford’s cocktail cuffs are designed this way.
Figure 6.4 should be avoided at all costs. The turnback is shorter than the stand and reveals not only the cuff attachment seam but also the stand all around the wrist. This looks sloppy.
In most of contour designs from Figure 4, where the cuff folds may be a product of both the cuff design and exactly where the wearer chooses to fold the cuff. In these cases, both the cuff designer and the wearer need to be aware to fold the cuff so that the cuff attachment is hidden. In Figure 4.4, the design of the cuff determines exactly where the cuff must be folded, so it is crucial that the depth of the cuff is properly calculated for the best outcome.
7. Buttons Variations
Cocktail cuffs usually use a standard 18L/11 mm shirt button, but some shirtmakers use a smaller 16L/10 mm button on their cuffs like they do for the collar (and sometimes the whole shirt).
The standard cocktail cuff has two buttons to lock its shape in place so it doesn’t pivot on the wrist. In most cuff designs, as seen in Figures 4.2, 4.3 and 4.4, the centre of the second button should be positioned within 2 cm/.75 in of the cuff’s fold to hold the fold in place. In Figures 4.1 and 4.5, these designs require the second button to be further from the fold so the cuff can roll over to prevent the turnback from overlapping on itself.
Less commonly, a cocktail cuff may fasten with only one button. Without a second button to hold the fold in place, the one-button cuff rolls much more than the two-button version. A simple contour works best for the one-button cocktail cuff, as illustrated in Figure 7.1. This shape is the same as Figure 4.1, but the single button is positioned slightly lower than the centre of the cuff’s stand. The cuff’s curve starts gradually from the centre of the button. Because this cuff rolls more than a two-button cuff, the exact place where the cuff starts to curve is less important. If the curve starts closer to the fold, the roll will be more pronounced. Roger Moore’s one-button cocktail cuff from Frank Foster in The Persuaders! is shaped like this and has a very pronounced roll.
A cuff that gently curves inward at the button, as pictured in Figure 7.2, works well with a one-button cocktail cuff to eliminate some of the roll. Roger Moore’s one-button cocktail cuff in Vendetta for the Saint is shaped like this. Sean Connery’s one-button cocktail cuff in Never Say Never Again is similarly shaped but with a less pronounced contour so it still has a fair amount of roll.
A cuff that has a defined demarcation between the stand and turnback, like in Figures 7.3 and 7.4, does not work well as a one-button cuff because of how it always rolls rather than folds. I used to have a cuff from New & Lingwood shaped like Figure 7.4, and the corner would inevitably awkwardly roll back. I also have a cuff like Figure 7.4 from Frank Foster that has a button-down feature (more on that below), and that helps prevent the corner from rolling back too much.
Another option for the one-button cocktail cuff is to use an extra-large button (Figure 7.5). Such a button could be the size used for a jacket sleeve, pyjama front or single-breasted jacket front, ranging from 22L to 30L/14mm to 19mm. Turnbull & Asser made a cocktail cuff for Sammy Davis Jr in 1966 that has a very large 30L white mother-of-pearl button ordinarily used for pyjamas and would be equally at home on the front of a dinner jacket. Because the button is so big, the cuff needs to be largely proportioned as well. Davis’ cuff is about 4 inches deep in both the stand and the turnback, which looks especially excessive on his small frame, but a minimum 3-inch stand would be necessary to balance such a large button. Davis’ cuff also places the single button closer to the fold than the centre of the cuff’s stand. His button is about 3 cm/1.25 in from the fold. Depending on the depth of the stand and personal taste, a one-button cocktail cuff should have the button 3 to 4.5 cm/1.25 to 1.75 in from the fold.
The three-button cocktail cuff illustrated in Figure 7.6 is the rarest style of all. The third button serves only serves a purpose if the stand is very deep and if cuff has a very lightweight interfacing. Such a lightweight cuff may need help with its rigidity, but in almost all cases two buttons would suffice. A third button would mainly be decorative, but since a cocktail cuff is already extraordinarily decorative a third button is overkill. If the cuff is otherwise well-designed, a third button neither creates nor solves problems. The contours in Figures 4.2, 4.3 and 4.4 all can be effective for a three-button cocktail cuff. Figures 4.1 and 4.5 need to be extra-deep to fit three buttons.
Turnbull & Asser made a three-button cocktail for Daniel Craig in 2008.
8. Button-Down Cocktail Cuffs
Because the cocktail cuff’s turnback has a tendency to get stuck on jacket sleeves, some shirtmakers make it a button-down cuff to keep the turnback in place. If the cocktail cuff weren’t already affected enough, a button-down cocktail cuff is the ultimate affectation. Nonetheless, it is a fun design.
Any cocktail cuff can be turned into a button-down cocktail cuff. Frank Foster first premiered their two-button button-down cocktail cuff on Roger Moore in 1968 on The Saint. The shape of the cuff, as illustrated in Figure 8.1, features a wide spread with a dramatically rounded shape.
The button-down feature is most helpful on a one-button cuff. Because one-button cocktail cuffs tend to collapse without a second button to hold their shape in place, a button-down feature helps define their shape by maintaining the position of where the cuff folds. It can also help a one-button cuff achieve a pronounced roll like an American button-down collar has. The one-button cocktail cuffs in Vendetta for the Saint, The Persuaders! and Never Say Never Again are all of the button-down variety.
Figures 7.1 and 7.2 are the perfect candidates for being a button-down cocktail cuff. Figure 8.2 shows a cuff that is similar to Figure 7.1, but the curve is a tighter hyperbolic curve to provide a more defined home for the buttonhole. The hyperbolic curves elegantly accentuates the roll effect of a button-down cocktail cuff.
The button-down button is a 14L/9 mm like the buttons on a button-down collar or sleeve gauntlet. The buttonhole may be angled into the rounded corner of the cuff like on a button-down collar (Figures 8.1 and 8.2), or it may be parallel to the cuff-to-sleeve seam to look more discrete (Figure 8.3). Frank Foster did the buttonholes on Roger Moore’s cocktail cuffs in The Persuaders! both ways. The button-down buttons should be affixed to the stand of the cuff, not the sleeve, for maximum stability. The buttons should also be spaced no further than 90 degrees around either side of the wrist from the main fastening button(s).
The button-down buttons may need to be positioned slightly further from the edge than where buttonholes are positioned. When the cuff curves around the wrist, the turnback takes up more space than the stand. If the cuff can be folded flat when the button-down buttons are fastened, the stand will bunch when curved around the wrist and make the cuff tighter.
Hidden button-down buttons like a hidden-button-down collar are also an option, but I have never seen anyone make such a cuff. It would look less affected than a visible button-down button.
9. Asymmetrical Cocktail Cuffs
Some cocktail cuffs have an asymmetrical design (Figure 9.1), where the button and buttonhole sides of the cuff have different contours. Frank Foster designed a one-button button-down cocktail cuff for me like this, and I’ve also seen it on a cocktail cuff from Sean John. Frank Foster’s asymmetrical design roughly placed the buttoning edge of the cuff centred in the spread, like in Figure 9.2. This contrasts with the typical cocktail cuff shown in Figure 1.2, where the buttons are centred in the spread like they would be in a collar.
Sean John’s design, shown in Figure 9.3, is a fix so that the turnback does not overlap itself. Its button side resembles Figure 5.1 while the the buttonhole side resembles Figure 5.3. This solves the problems that Figures 5.1 and 5.3 have when both sides of the cuff use those respective designs.
An asymmetrical cocktail cuffs looks awkward when unfolded, but when fastened around the wrist it does not appear unusual. Nevertheless, I find that cocktail cuffs look best when the buttons are centred in the spread, like they usually are on a collar.
10. The Interfacing
Cocktail cuffs need a lightweight to medium-weight interfacing. A sewn-in floating interfacing provides a more elegant fold or roll than a fused interfacing.
Lightweight floating interfacings can look attractive on cocktail cuffs, and Turnbull & Asser tend to use a fairly lightweight interfacing in all their cuffs. Lightweight interfacings, however, can make it more likely that the cuff will get stuck on a jacket sleeve and unfold during the course of wearing it. This occasionally happens to James Bond.
Frank Foster use a more substantial floating interfacing in their cocktail cuffs, which helps them better maintain their shape while wearing them. The interfacing is still light enough to allow the cuff to curve neatly and comfortably around the wrist. I find that their cuff interfacing is the most effective not only for cocktail cuffs but for all cuffs.
Fused interfacings are usually too stiff for a cocktail cuff, even lightweight ones. Some makers use stiff fused interfacings to make up for a poorly designed cuff (such as the cuffs in Figure 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3) so it maintains an unnatural shape. A stiff interfacing ends up with an uncomfortable cuff that wears out sooner than it should. A stiff interfacing does not allow the cuff to roll or fold over easily and will end up with ripples at the fold. Many shirtmakers have success with a lightweight fusing in their cocktail cuffs, but the effect is never as elegant as a floating interfacing.
11. Cocktail Cuffs with Cufflinks
The purpose of a cocktail cuff is to have a double cuff that fastens with buttons instead of cufflinks, but some people are interested in the idea of a cuff that fastens with cufflinks in a kissing manner but has the cutaway shape of a cocktail cuff. I have only seen one attempt at such a cuff, but the design did not allow the cuff to fold back in an elegant way. I have put some thought into how such a cuff could be. The shapes in Figures 7.1, 7.2 and 7.5 would make for a decent place to start. The design in Figure 11.1 below started with Figure 7.5.
The interfacing provides the biggest challenge to creating a cocktail cuff that fastens with cufflinks. Double (French) cuffs and cocktail cuffs both have a lightweight interfacing. Double cuffs support cufflinks because the cufflink passes through four layers of cuff. A single link cuff, where the cufflink passes through only two layers of cuff, needs to be heavier and stiffer to support the cufflinks. A typically lightweight cocktail cuff would be too flimsy to support cufflinks passing through two layers, similar to how convertible cuffs are usually too flimsy. A cocktail cuff that has the stiffness of a single link cuff will support the cufflinks but will also be too stiff to fold over neatly.
The design in Figure 11.1 may possibly work if an extra interfacing is added to the cuff’s stand to provide stability for the cufflinks. Turnbull & Asser add stayflex to the ends of their collars to provide more rigidity, and the same technique could be applied to the stand of a cufflink cocktail cuff.
A lightweight cufflink cocktail cuff with the cutaway only on the outside of the cuff might work so that the cufflinks have three layers of cuff for support, as illustrated in Figure 11.2. Three layers should provide enough stability compared to two layers. The straight line of the stand’s edge needs to extend all the way to the fold so that the two sides of the cuff line up when they come together. The turnback is initially cut away at a 45-degree angle so the cufflinks won’t be hidden under the turnback. But like in Figure 5.2, the 45-degree cutaway will tend to roll back rather than sit flush with the opposite side of the cuff. The design will not look as neat in practice as it does on paper. A cutaway that is more acute will roll over better but hide the cufflinks, while a cutaway that is more obtuse will look more awkward in how it rolls over. Ultimately, I think this is a flawed design.
A another solution to this problem might be to construct a two-piece cuff like a two-piece collar that has a stiff stand and a soft turnback. The shape would need to be designed in a way that the cufflinks aren’t hidden under the turnback, and the shape I propose in Figure 11.3 has a contour in the base rather than in the turnback to get the most cufflink exposure and to prevent the stand from rolling back. I have never seen an example of such a cuff, and it would be a highly affected look.
I think the best solution is to do a regular double cuff with a severely rounded cutaway (Figures 11.4 and 11.5) , since it will have a more dramatic look that hints at the cocktail cuff without being overly fussy. Frank Foster made a double cuff with a severe mitre cut for Sean Connery’s dress shirt in Goldfinger, but a similar cuff with an excessively rounded shape compared to the typical rounded double cuff could be a good substitute for a cufflink cocktail cuff. The link holes should be placed about 2.5 cm/1 in from the fold to allow the most space for the rounded design. Nevertheless, this design would not count as a cocktail cuff.
12. Fit and Other Considerations
The cocktail cuff is a barrel cuff, for all intents and purposes, because it fastens in a cylindrical manner around the wrist, not in a kissing manner like a double cuff. It should be approached more like a regular button cuff than a double cuff.
The cocktail cuff should be fitted like a button cuff, not like a double cuff. The circumferential fit of a cocktail cuff around the wrist is very important and provides a challenge in ready-to-wear. While the buttons can be moved on a too-large button cuff to make it tighter around the wrist without significantly compromising the design, moving the buttons on a cocktail cuff affects how the cuff looks when it folds over. Some cuff designs—such as ones that have a lot of ‘tie space’—may allow for moving the buttons a small amount, but in most cases moving the buttons to shrink the cuff will ruin the cuff’s design. If the buttons are placed far from the edge of the cuff, it may be possible to slightly enlarge a cocktail cuff by moving the buttons outwards.
The sleeve gauntlet (sometimes called a sleeve placket) should be sewn like a button cuff’s gauntlet because it is a barrel cuff. It should not be twisted like on a double cuff (except on the cocktail cuff with cufflinks proposals in Section 11). Like with any other cuff, the gauntlet may or may not have a button.
Top stitching the cuff is no different than top stitching any other cuff. It should match the collar stitching. Traditionally it would be stitched .25 in from the edge in Imperial units or 6 or 7 mm from the edge in metric. Some choose to stitch their collars and cuffs closer to the edge. The stitching at the base of the cuff can vary more. It may either match the topstitching or it may be further from the base, like at 1.5 cm/.5 in.
Many thanks Matt, for sharing your knowledge and findings. What a dissertation! Very well researched and presented. Could you please elaborate a little on your experience of Budd and the shirt that Darren made for you?
From a historical perspective, one cannot help wondering when and by whom the cocktail cuff was originally designed. I have noticed that this style of cuff design seem to be popular with tailors and shirtmaker’s (cf. John Kent, Terry Haste) who wants their shirts to be both practical and presentable while working long hours in their shirtsleeves (perhaps wearing a waistcoat but not a jacket, as it would be too restricted), tailoring and meeting clients. In their line of work, ordinary barrel cuffs may be too casual and double cuffs with precious cuff links may be too inconvenient when doing a lot of manual labour with their hands.
Anyway, cocktail cuffs did elevate the look of James Bond as well as Simon Templar and Lord Brett Sinclair. It is a fun and unique design, also known as the “penis cuff”, not unsuitable for the adventurous man.
Personally, I do iron my T & A cocktail cuffs for a neater look and if the jacket has the correct sleeve length and width, they slide through quite effortlessly.
Darren wanted me to experience his own collar and cocktail cuff design, so he offered to make them for me if I gave him an old shirt that needed the collar and cuffs replaced. The collar is a high spread. I love both his collar and cuff design.
I really appreciate the scientific take presented on this post, Matt. This cuff is underappreciated as is, and accurate execution is always crucial to ensure everything is right. I’ll be honest when I say this article will be my guide to my perfect shirt cuff.
The “poignet napolitain” has been a favourite of mine since the late 1990s and the first choice on my first MTM shirts while in my early 20s. And those cuffs are still my favourite and daily wear to this day.
Honestly, any form of cocktail cuffs are truly underrated. I mean, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t need the hassle of cufflinks, but at the same time, I want the same elegance. Cocktail cuffs really served as the happy equalizer, not medium, and not substitution.
It might have also been an obsession from Thunderball, but I’d rather wear cocktail cuffs with black tie than double cuffs.
Fascinating stuff! Thanks, Matt.
PS — for those in the States, Turner Classic Movies is showing “Woman of Straw” as part of the Gina Lollobrigida tribute on 2 May at 11PM PST / 3 May 2AM EST
Great article, thanks Matt.
I’m not sure if Frank invented the cocktail cuff – it seems likely he did. I’ll have to ask.
I now get all my shirts made by Mary and Sam (at Frank Foster), with cocktail cuffs. I prefer the button down variety for practical reasons – they don’t flap around. I’ve been encouraging them to use lighter and lighter interfacing, especially on more casual shirts like corduroy with great success. It surely helps that the fabric itself is weighty unlike Frank’s preferred gossamer thin formal dress shirts.
I’m intrigued by your ideas of the hidden button down – I’ll try that.
And just a thought on the idea of cocktail cuffs with cufflinks; the button down would help solve the structural problems. You could either have a concealed button, or simply get your chosen jeweler to make a second, much smaller, set of cufflinks to work as the button down.
Thanks, Tim. Frank told me he invented the cocktail cuff, but I believe the style is actually older than he is. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying their cocktail cuff shirts.
A hidden button down cuff might solve some of the problems with cufflinks, but I don’t think it would be enough. The part of the cuff where the link holes are needs the rigidity.
Great article. It could form a chapter from a very interesting book. I had seen your video in the From Tailors with Love youtube channel, the one with Peter Broker where you touch on this subject and both of you show some examples from your personal shirts. I don’t remember if you have one with button down cuffs. Thanks for this article.
The phrase “we don’t know what we don’t know” seems very opportune.
Maybe in the future you find a possible candidate actor (either his personal wardrobe at some event or a movie) for bond 26 that is worth to analyze for you from the sartorial point of view.
Fascinating article. I can’t help but reflect how Ian Fleming didn’t like cuffs as he claimed they got dirty, and preferred short-sleeved shirts. I believe he bequeathed this prejudice to Bond, in the books… However I cannot quote chapter and verse on book-Bond’s cuff preferences. I’d be interested to know the thinking behind the creation of cocktail cuffs for Connery’s Bond, and whether there was any objection from book-Bond purists?
I believe that Terence Young was already a fan of cocktail cuffs before Dr. No and just passed on his preference to James Bond, along with most of the other styles Bond wears in Dr. No. I have rarely heard any book Bond purists complain about Sean Connery’s style, apart from his Windsor knots. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard someone say that Bond should be wearing short-sleeve shirts with his suits.
The style of Sean Connery in the movies was an improvement over the James Bond of the books. If you want to know what short sleeves with suits would look like in a spy movie, look no further than OSS 117: Lost in Rio!
Well I hate to be the contrarian here but while I appreciate the depth of Matt’s deep-dive analysis here, I’m am not a fan of cocktail cuffs at all. The connection to literary Bond is interesting, as – like Fleming himself – he was written as something of a utilitarian so it’s debatable weather book Bond would find them to be preferable over having to mess with cuff links or whether he’d find them a fussy affectation (as I’m certain he would with Craig’s tab collars!)
Anyway for me cocktail cuffs are a solution in search of a problem. For more formal occasions when wearing more formal suits, I like wearing double (French) cuffs and cuff links. For less formal occasions and casual suits or odd jackets then buttoned barrel cuffs are fine. The very fact that we have to discuss the length of the turn back or the possibility of button down cuffs to solve further cocktail cuff problems just serves to prove that they’re not fit for purpose!
Am I alone here?
Not totally alone, no. Nice to have a black sheep in the flock. With white tie, cufflinks are a must, and I also like to wear them with black tie and suits, especially in the evening. I like Budd shirts and complement them with their chain cufflinks, but I also like my cocktail cuffed shirts from Turnbull and Asser and think that they are more fun than ordinary barrel cuffs. Personally, I would love for Bond to have a concealed pocket within his cocktail cuff (just like shirt collars have hidden pockets for collar stays) were he could hide a small gadget, or even an emergence suicide pill!
I agree–they’re a charming eccentricity of Bondian wardrobe, but I wouldn’t wear them myself for the reasons you describe. They are fussy without being particularly decorative and I personally can’t envisage any situation where they would be preferable to the more practical button-cuff and the more elegant double-cuff. I’m glad others enjoy them though–hence this fascinating article!
I would disagree – I think it’s a brilliant cuff for Bond and a great choice for daily wear. However, I do sometimes wonder if for the uninitiated seen at a distance, people think it’s just a standard button cuff folded back in a casual manner.
I have to disagree with you by miles. Cocktail cuffs actually solves a lot of problems rather than looking for them. I don’t have to concern myself with cufflinks when I don’t have the time, and I can still retain a much more formal look than that of typical barrel cuffs. If looks is all that is concerned, then at first glance, cocktail cuffs look like French cuffs enough that unless people are up close and personal, they would not notice. Besides, the convenience of cuff buttons already there are much more convenient than having have to meddle with cufflinks. Besides which, if you’re talking about length of cuffs and folds, some people are just as fussy with French cuffs. That and, cocktail cuffs are less rude than French cuffs in a certain professional work environments.
I really wish women got better designed cocktail cuffs the way men do on our RTW garments. When I do occasionally see them, it’s just a long rectangle with buttons at the bottom and it really doesn’t look that good folded back. I saw this very design on a Nordstrom shirt dress when I worked there. You would think they would at least round the corners to better compliment our curves.