Cocktail Cuffs

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cocktail-cuff

In Japan they’re known as the James Bond cuff; the Italians refer to them as Portofino; and the English –if they refer to them at all- call them the Cocktail Cuff or the Turnback.

You really won’t find very much written about cocktails cuffs, and even less in support. The best Hardy Amies can muster in his ‘ABC of Men’s Fashion’ is to say;

“one must recognise and condone the constant tendency towards simplification, and if the job of joining up four bits of shirt seems rather fiddly in the morning, you can strike a reasonable appearance with the single cuff of double thickness…”

Nicholas Antongiavanni, in his enjoyable and rather useful book ‘The Suit’ says even less:

“There are two kinds [of cuffs], button (or “barrel”) and French. (“Cocktail” or “Bond” cuffs, a clumsy attempt to combine the two, are too pretentious to be elegant.)”

I find this statement a curious one given that the double cuff requires an item of jewellery, which is by its nature showy.

It’s no easier a job to find the exact history of the Cocktail Cuff either. Three variations make the rounds, two sound reasonable and one could well be the nonsense of my own imagination.

The first, and most repeated, is that it was created by Turnbull and Asser and later adopted first by Sean Connery and later Roger Moore in their portrayals of James Bond, hence the term James Bond cuff. That last bit is true. The second, less well known story, is that it was the creation of London’s esteemed bespoke shirt maker Frank Foster (www.frankfostershirts.com), who is still in business (www.esquire.co.uk) and whose shop is located in Pall Mall. The third story is that it was created for David Niven by Ede & Ravenscroft, but as I can’t remember the source for this information it’s probably BS.

Now, I’ve always had a soft spot for cocktail cuffs; and while originally intended for dress shirts (hence Cocktail Cuff) it’s also acceptable for formal shirts.

There is something wonderfully fraudulent about them. You get the weight and aesthetic of a normal double cuff without the ultra conservatism of double cuffs. To that end they work particularly well with odd jackets and trousers, particularly in bold patterns. They’re right, but not.


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Andrew Williams blogs at BespokeMe and is based in London. His clothing label Bulldog & Wasp represents his philosophy that style is a frame of mind not just a state of dress.

Comments

  1. DandyLion says:

    I have always wondered what these cuffs were called. I have seen them on other but never tried them. Thanks for the post.

  2. Jake says:

    These are interesting, but I’m not sure I’d wear them. I prefer what is almost the exact opposite of this style: a single cuff fastened with a cufflink. The only time these are technically ‘correct’ is with White Tie but, in fact, I think they work well on plain shirts of all types.

    With the cocktail cuff you get, as you say, the weight without the conservatism. With the single, cufflink fastened, cuff, you get the formality but without the excess weight. I find that particularly advantageous with an odd jacket, where the extra layers of fabric of a double-cuff seem out of place.

  3. Andrew says:

    Jake,
    Funny you should mention single cuffs and cuff links. I found this the other day.

    http://asuitablewardrobe.dynend.com/2009/02/linked-cuffs.html

  4. Richard says:

    I have always known it as a Cafe cuff
    http://www.atozbook.info/view.asp?key=408

  5. Jake says:

    Andrew,
    Ah yes – exactly what I meant. What a great picture!
    I don’t know why exactly, but they do seem to work better in white or other quite plain colours, as here.
    Great article, by the way, thanks.

  6. C.S. says:

    “. . . the double cuff requires an item of jewellery, which is by its nature showy.”

    Er . . . no. Double cuffs require a cufflink, which is not by its nature showy, and need not be an item of jewelry. (Says I, looking at my silk knots.)

  7. Andrew says:

    Cufflinks are regarded as jewellery by most writers, even NA who made the statement being challenged. While silk knots are acceptable today, normally cufflinks would be gold or silver, which when compared to a button is showy.The statement is perfectly sound.

  8. Steve says:

    “There are two kinds [of cuffs], button (or “barrel”) and French. (“Cocktail” or “Bond” cuffs, a clumsy attempt to combine the two, are too pretentious to be elegant.)”

    I find this statement a curious one given that the double cuff requires an item of jewellery, which is by its nature showy.

    You’ve both missed the point. NA is saying that the cocktail cuff is inelegant as it does not require jewellery, silk or anything other than buttons to fasten it.