Button Cuffs



The button cuff, also known as the barrel cuff, is certainly the most forgettable of all shirt cuffs. They lack the personalisation that double cuff have from cufflinks and the flare of the cocktail cuff. But they are, nonetheless, worth discussing. They’re certainly the most versatile, since they can be worn casually and with a suit. They don’t, however, go well with anything more formal than a suit. Button cuffs can have one, two or three buttons and rounded, mitred (angle cuff) or square corners. The ordinary button cuff has one button with rounded corners. Because the cuff can pivot on a single button, the rounded corners look best on top of each other when the cuff pivots. Rounded corners follow the cuff’s pivot.

George Lazenby wears rounded one-button cuffs in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Roger Moore wears them in Octopussy and A View to a Kill, Timothy Dalton wears them in The Living Daylights, and Pierce Brosnan wears them on a few shirts in GoldenEye. One-button cuffs are typically shorter than other cuffs, around 2 to 2 1/2 inches, though Roger Moore’s cuffs from Frank Foster are around 3 inches long. Moore’s cuffs are also more rounded, which, when combined with the larger size, make the cuffs look quite elegant. Some of Roger Moore’s cuffs in Octopussy have slightly oversized buttons around the same size as the buttons on a jacket’s cuff, which is one of Foster’s ways to add extra flair.

Daniel-Craig-One-Button-Square-CuffSquare corners look better on cuffs with multiple buttons, since the multiple buttons prevent the cuff from pivoting and ensure the edge will always be continuous. When a square-cornered one-button cuff pivots, the corners end up awkwardly juxtaposed on top of each other. Bond, nevertheless, occasions wears a square one-button cuff. Pierce Brosnan’s blue shirt in Tomorrow Never Dies and Daniel Craig’s black shirt in Casino Royale have square one-button cuffs.

Timothy-Dalton-One-Button-Mitred-CuffMitred one-button cuffs fit somewhere between the rounded and square cuffs. They look more elegant than square one-button cuffs, but they don’t have the rounded corner to follow the pivot of the cuff. Roger Moore’s black shirt in Moonraker, TImothy Dalton’s formal shirts in Licence to Kill, and Daniel Craig’s floral shirt in Skyfall have mitred one-button cuffs.

Roger-Moore-Two-Button-Mitred-CuffAdding a second button to the cuff usually means that the cuff will be larger. The second button also keeps the cuff more rigid, which makes the two-button cuff slightly dressier than the single-button cuff. When the cuff has a square corner, the rigidity that the second button provides ensures that the edge of the cuff will always stay continuous around. Roger Moore wears a brown striped shirt with square two-button cuffs in Live and Let Die. A mitred corner is another elegant option for the two-button cuff, and Roger Moore wears mitred two-button cuffs on his formal shirts throughout For Your Eyes Only. Like how Roger Moore’s rounded cuffs are extra round, his mitred cuffs have a deeper cut to exaggerate the style.

Pierce-Brosnan-Three-Button-CuffThree-button cuffs aren’t as popular as one- and two-button cuffs, but they are Turnbull & Asser’s signature cuff style. Considering how Turnbull & Asser made so many shirts for James Bond, the cuff only appears once in the series. Pierce Brosnan wears them on the blue royal oxford shirt he wears with his cream suit in The World Is Not Enough. The three-button cuff doesn’t behave any differently than a two-button cuff, but it needs to have a square edge. A rounded or mitred edge would require extra length beyond the button, which would make a three-button cuff excessively long.


  1. Thanks Matt!
    I must admit that in general I prefer well-cut barrel cuffs to French cuffs and for some good reasons I think. First of all, barrel cuffs are without any doubt more practical. Just think of how French cuffs impede you when you are trying to write or type something – they are always in the way. Furthermore they tend to fray quicker than barrel cuffs and get dirty easily. And wearing them during summertime can be annoying (who wants to have such a bulky thing around his wrist in the heat?)
    Secondly, barrel cuffs are more versatile. Normally French cuffs are not be worn without a tie (although many do it). Button cuffs can be combined easily both with business and casual wear.
    And I don’t think at all that French cuffs are per se the more elegant version. It all depends on their size and the choice of cufflinks. I have seen many oversized ones worn with cufflinks which were simply dreadful (Mickey Mouse motifs, cufflinks in neon yellow and so on). And quite often they are used to show off which makes an “upstart” impression.
    There are of course barrel cuff versions which are quite ugly – thanks to ready-to-wear-shirts which quite often only feature the square-cut barrel cuff with one button. This is quite ordinary. But bespoke versions can look very nice. I myself prefer the type Roger Moore is wearing (first photo). Simple elegance.
    However if it comes to formal wear there isn’t really an alternative to French cuffs. Perhaps you can wear cocktail cuffs instead (like Sean Connery did several times). The cocktail cuff is IMO the “smarter” version of the double cuff – no cuff links needed, no obstacle during writing etc.

    By the way Matt: Are there any button cuffs on the shirts you ordered from Frank Foster? And which types does he offer?
    Hope that in the meantime you have got some of the ones which are still to be delivered! ;-)

    Cheers, Renard

    • I didn’t order any ordinary button cuffs from Frank Foster. They’re all cocktail cuffs except for one tab cuff. David Marlborough who comments here got a bunch of shirts with the two-button mitred cuff from For Your Eyes Only. And I’m sure he still makes the one-button rounded cuff pictured at the top. I got all of my shirts a while back!

    • “I got all of my shirts a while back!”
      – That’s great – I think most of us would be very interested in seeing them!
      I hope you will write an article about them (?)


  2. Frank offers all kinds of cuffs…I think his usual barrel cuff template is the single button first Moore picture and mine are also 3″. He is not a fan of square cuffs because he thinks the edges wear off quicker…makes sense.

  3. Reporting here on menswear inspired women’s clothes. Looking through my closet (okay, it was really my laundry bag) I noticed one dress shirt that has four buttons on the cuff. I never wear it partly because my arms just aren’t long enough for a 4″ cuff!

    • That indeed seems a bit excessive but are you worried about your arms looking shorter because of the cuffs? It’s hard to say without seeing it for myself, but I wouldn’t think too much about it. Though, it is good to pay attention to proportion in relation to one’s body. Not too many people do that now.

    • This shirt is a fairly new offering. Shirts with cocktail cuffs have only been available occasionally from Turnbull & Asser. One time when I was in the store a few years ago the only cocktail cuff shirt they had was a red and white butcher stripe. And all other times since they had none.

    • I’ve been browsing their website recently and saw that. Too bad it’s their modern cocktail cuff pattern and it’s only available in blue. Though, I understand that they want to save costs and may not even have the original pattern as used there. (Though Matt’s reverse-engineering of the Dr. No cuff seems pretty spot on, I’m curious if that man who owns a T&A turnback cuff shirt from Dr. No could help even further.) $335 though… if I could afford T&A shirts, I would definitely get that one and have it taken in with darts added in the back. I hear regular fit T&A shirts are a bit… voluminous.

  4. I’ve had shirts with cocktail cuffs, tab (Lapidus) cuffs and plain button cuffs made by Foster. The button cuffs which I have already worn are all the 2 button mitred version like Moore’s in “For Your Eyes Only” although I do have a blue shirt with a button down collar (like from “A View To A Kill”) which has the single button, rounded version which I haven’t worn yet. With a button down collar, I think this cuff matches best as the collar is a bit more casual and the cuff is the least “fancy” (for want of a better word) to match up. Button down collars aren’t my favourite but one or two are worth while in ones wardrobe and I wanted to sample a variety of Foster’s styles. I have ordered a second one in a cream self stripe with a recent order and I expect this will probably arrive some time well in to next year ;)

    • That’s interesting, because Thom Browne makes his OCBDs with a single button mitred cuff. I’m sure it was just to put his own “spin” on an American classic such as short and tight sack suits. I rather like the T&A button-down collar shirts which have their signature three button cuff. Somehow it works better and I can’t put a finger on why.

      The great thing about a button-down collar made bespoke, as I explained to Matt recently in private conversation, is that the tailor will customize the roll, point length, and spread to you alone. It’s a shame that more people don’t get them made bespoke for that reason — there are some beautiful examples from American shirtmaker CEGO, one of which was worn by Matthew Broderick in “The Producers”. The downside of off the rack button-downs is that, while some have more roll than others, the points will look more or less arched depending on the wearer. Some people see a “sprezzatura” quality in that however. Certainly, Cary Grant and Fred Astaire loved Brooks Brothers button-down shirts off the rack despite having most of their shirts and suits made bespoke! I believe it was said that they couldn’t find a shirtmaker who made the collar quite the same way.

      I’ve seen some people say that button-downs shouldn’t be worn with ties, but it’s interesting to note that Brooks Brothers made them expressly for that from the beginning. They officially claim that it was inspired by buttoned down collar points on polo players’ shirts which they saw in England, but there is no corroboration for that story. In fact, some clothing historians suggest that they may have actually been pinned to their shirts and that detail was lost over a century of retelling the same tale. In the end, it’s just a matter of preference. Button-downs with more roll, such as Brooks Brothers’, are better for wearing with ties because more of the knot is shown as with a spread collar.

  5. Wow – loads of things that had never occurred to me – thank you.

    The first 3-button cuff I had made came with a cuff slightly tighter at the top than the opening, and I liked it – it was like having a slightly flared suit-sleeve cuff. But when I took it back to have something else adjusted the maker quietly changed the whole cuff round, so that it was tighter at the opening – turned out he’d made a mistake the first time! He later told me he always makes 3-button cuffs with the ‘corrected’ shape, the T&A shape (although I always ask for mine straight now).

    Matt, you’ve talked about the elegant angle on the T&A’s in an earlier post, but I prefer that angle to go the other way round, otherwise it looks a bit ‘pinched’ to me, whereas I err towards flair, both literal and figurative. I’ve often toyed with the idea of asking the maker to make them ‘upside down’ for me – would that be a huge mistake? Perhaps it would sit less well on the wrist, but then again the T&A way is a bit less practical over a watch. Or am I spouting a lot of poncey nonsense??

    • I think the way Turnbull & Asser does the cuff is best. The taper follows the shape of the arm. You can have the cuff made larger for the wrist that needs a watch. If the cuff flared out it would slide down the hand. The proper taper keeps the cuff in place.

  6. I suppose you’re right – I’ll try to put that idea out of my head. Thanks again for the post, and for your reply.

  7. Recently I was in need of some ready-to-wear dress shirts, and I noticed that American department stores currently seem to have VERY few french cuff shirts. The local Macy’s only had ONE model that I could find. Everything else had barrel cuffs.
    Is that the current trend? If so, then I saw pshaw to that.

    • This is not a trend, just the way things are in America. You have to go to a high-end store to find double cuffs in America. They’re seen as inappropriate in America at many workplaces for people who aren’t in high positions.

    • Well, just a few years ago many US brick-and-mortar shops seemed to stock a lot more of them (Macy’s has more available on their web site, but not actually in their stores right now).

      And French cuffs can be found more readily at stores that tend to cater to church-going communities (though not necessarily in contemporary slimmer/fit cuts). So I do think they may trend up and down somewhat, depending on popularity or demographics.

  8. I wouldn’t mind seeing a post on the double cuffs that have appeared in the films. You could even go into detail about the cuff links used. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond and now Craig’s have a preference for double cuffs.


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