Unspoken rules in men’s style. I love them and hate them at the same time. It’s tough to know where you stand sometimes, especially with dress shirts. So, can you wear French cuffs without a jacket?
French cuffs should generally always be worn with a jacket. Wearing French cuffs without a jacket can cause a formality mismatch, not fitting either casual or formal dress codes. It can also look incomplete and sometimes even eccentric.
Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it.
After going through the reasons why French cuffs should usually be worn with a jacket, I’ll go through the alternative looks you could consider instead.
Then, I’ll briefly touch on how you could wear French cuffs without a jacket if you really had to.
Let’s get to it.
3 Reasons Why French Cuffs Should Be Worn With A Jacket
While it wouldn’t be a downright disaster, it’s generally not a good idea. Here are a few reasons why.
1. It Causes A Formality Mismatch
This is the big one.
When French cuffs and cufflinks are worn without a jacket, it causes a formality mismatch.
Let me explain.
French cuffs need to be worn with cufflinks. Overall, it’s a pretty formal look. The angular structure of the cuff itself, as well as the elegant glare from the cufflinks, gives off a sophisticated edge.
One reason may be because they’re so heavily associated with more formal dress codes such as black-tie, white tie, and morning dress.
Because of this, you almost expect French cuffs to be worn with dressier items of clothing such as neckties, bowties, or jackets.
The jacket could be a suit jacket, a blazer, or a sport coat – it doesn’t matter.
You just expect something there.
So, wearing French cuffs without a jacket is a look that wouldn’t really fit into a formal dress code.
But what about casual, smart-casual, or business-casual?
Well, it wouldn’t really fit into those either. The cufflinks simply look too formal for any of them.
Those are dress codes where you would either not be wearing a dress shirt at all, or you’d be wearing one with a simple, buttoned, barrel cuff.
As you can see, the French cuffs, cufflinks, and no jacket look is one that doesn’t land safely within any dress code, situation, or context.
That’s why it’s pretty reasonable to say that it just shouldn’t usually be done.
2. It Looks Incomplete
When you wear French cuffs without a jacket, it often looks as though you’re simply not finished getting dressed.
It’s like you were midway through putting on your suit, but then got distracted or disturbed and had to rush out for some reason.
While it may seem unreasonable or unfair, it’s the unfortunate truth.
Not everyone will pick up on it, but there’s a good chance that some people will.
When you’re attending a work party, a conference, or anywhere else where you don’t want to risk a fashion faux pas, it would simply be a better idea to not do it.
Making sure you wear a necktie is one way to make it seem less incomplete (as I talk about in the last section), but it still won’t look quite right.
3. It Can Look Eccentric
Standing out with your style choices is usually something to strive for. But it shouldn’t be for the wrong reasons.
You don’t want to draw attention to yourself for straying too far from what’s traditionally accepted within men’s style.
Ultimately, wearing French cuffs with their mandatory cufflinks and no jacket will usually come across as unusual to people.
It could seem as though you’re trying too hard to be different, even though your intentions may be completely the opposite.
But if you don’t come across as eccentric, it might simply look as though you’re not used to wearing cufflinks.
Almost as though you were just gifted a pair and you’re not quite sure how or when to wear them.
At the end of the day, you don’t want to overthink what people think, especially when it comes to your own personal style.
But it’s often best to not draw unwanted attention when there are plenty of reasonable alternatives you could have gone for instead.
Speaking of which, let’s discuss a couple of the main ones right now.
Alternatives To French Cuffs When Not Wearing A Jacket
Sure, there are going to be more. But here are the main alternatives you should consider for the dress code you’re probably trying to dress for.
If you’re thinking of wearing French cuffs without a jacket, it’s pretty likely you’re trying to dress smart-casual or business casual. If you were going for anything more formal than that, you should really be wearing a full suit.
Consider these instead of going for cufflinks without a jacket.
1. Oxford Cloth Button Down (OCBD)
Arguably one of the most versatile shirts in men’s style. I don’t usually like the term “must-have”.
No one “must” really have anything when it comes to their wardrobe. But I’d come close to saying it with an OCBD.
Your average OCBD in a simple, muted, neutral tone is the ideal shirt to wear without a jacket for smart-casual and business casual dress codes.
The rugged, yet subtle texture of Oxford cloth makes it ideal to wear without a jacket and without a necktie. You really don’t need anything else.
Don’t get me wrong – business casual outfits do usually look better with something over the OCBD.
For example, a cardigan or a sports coat.
But you could get away without it. It would look a lot less awkward than wearing a French cuffed dress shirt without a jacket.
2. Barrel Cuff Dress Shirt
This is probably stating the obvious, but I’ll say it anyway.
Wearing a barrel cuff dress shirt without a jacket would look so much more appropriate. There’s no formality mismatch whatsoever.
It’s incredibly common to wear a barrel cuff dress shirt without a jacket and people wouldn’t usually bat an eyelid.
Barrel cuffs look so much more casual and laid back than French cuffs that you don’t really need to wear a jacket, a necktie, or anything else with it.
Sure, it may look dressier and more stylish if you did wear a jacket.
But it wouldn’t look awkward if you didn’t.
4 Tips When Wearing French Cuffs Without A Jacket
OK – so you’ve read everything written earlier and you still want to go for it. Well, if you must, consider these four tips whenever you feel like wearing French cuffs without a jacket.
1. Go For Silk Knots
Silk knots look a lot more casual than traditional cufflinks.
They come in a variety of different colors and are actually a great way to add a vibrant edge to whatever French cuff shirt you may be wearing.
What’s great about them is that they don’t look as formal. They can dress down a French cuff shirt.
When you’re not wearing a jacket, that’s exactly what you want.
2. Always Wear A Tie
As I mentioned earlier, a good way of minimizing the “incompleteness” of the French cuffs and no jacket look is to make sure you wear a necktie.
Not doing so really would make things look half-finished.
The necktie is a good way to add a splash of formality to your outfit and reduce the risk of the French cuffs looking too formal for the outfit as a whole.
3. Go In With A Jacket And Take It Off
If you’re not keen on wearing a jacket throughout the event or setting you’re attending, take one with you anyway.
Better yet, walk in wearing it and then take it off once you’re there.
This will make it clear to people that you do have a jacket with you and you’re simply taking it off for the sake of convenience and comfort.
It’s completely fine to do and is sort of a win-win.
Sure, it might still look incomplete, but at least it’s clear that it’s intentional.
4. Roll Up The Sleeves
Finally, a great solution to the problem would be to wear the French cuff shirt and roll up the sleeves.
This would be ideal if, for whatever reason, you only had access to French cuff shirts and nothing else.
You’ve read everything above and you don’t want to go jacketless with one.
An effortless way to get over the problem would be to simply roll those French cuffs up.
It’s a great, casual look – especially in the warmer weather.
It’ll look a lot less out of place without a jacket. Most people wouldn’t even be able to tell you were wearing French cuffs at all.
There are several reasons why it’s usually best to always wear a jacket with French cuffs. It’s generally accepted as an unspoken rule of men’s style and often discouraged.
Hopefully, you’ve not only learned why but also gathered a couple of alternatives you could try instead.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.