The other day, I watched the film A Jubilee Tribute To The Queen by the Prince of Wales – a one hour film by Prince Charles for his mother. While this film provided some interesting historical insights, it was also a wonderful chance to get a closer look at the clothes of the future King of England. If you’re not familiar with Charles’ style, the Prince has always shown a fondness for traditional British clothing; while he’s not as revolutionary as the Duke of Windsor, he is not afraid to take risks and play with detail. Take a look at the video to see for yourself, and allow me the opportunity to share more about a notable long-lost jacket detail.
The Jacket with Cuffs
In the video, one detail that stood out rather prominently were the cuffs on Charles’ coat in the first scene. In the past, I have seen quite a few garments with this special feature, although it does not seem very popular at the present. Sadly, turn back cuffs on sleeves are all but extinct in modern RTW clothing.
Every once in a while, a bespoke client might order them, but other than that, they are exceptionally very rare. When I posted this picture of Prince Charles on Facebook and asked what people thought of this detail, Robert Sacheli – author at Dandyism.net -wrote: “I think HRH has simply unbuttoned a cuff button or two and turned them back to better carry out whatever task he’s performing.” I thought to myself that if even a clothes horse like Robert does not recognize this detail, many others will have never heard of it.
Cuffs on Overcoats
Traditionally, cuffs have been popular on overcoats such as the Ulster in the 1920′s and 1930′s, but even at the time it would have been rare to see them on jackets. You would generally find them on less formal overcoats made out of tweed, but not on town overcoats. Personally, I find it a nice way of creating a different look on an overcoat and if you keep the cuffs open, it is a great position for a hidden pocket. No pickpocket would be sartorially sophisticated enough to look inside the cuffs!
Apart from that, cuffs were also popular with certain military uniforms and overcoats.
Sleeve Cuffs on Jackets
Despite the popularity of cuffs on uniforms, you will rarely see pictures from the 1930′s that show a jacket with these turn
back cuffs, and if then only on casual country jackets. When I was on Savile Row last year, I was positively surprised to see cuffs on town suits as well as country shooting jackets. For women, cuffs are a great option to add a contrasting color and material to their outfit while I would probably advise against that choice for a men’s suit.
In the 1950′s, cuffs became more popular in continental Europe, but the masses never really adopted it across the board. In my opinion, this is a pity since they are a great way to add distinction to your coat.
Probably the most popular style among this niche clientele is the rounded turn back cuff as worn by Prince Charles. Usually, it is matched with the pattern of the sleeve and you can immediately notice that it is not just an unbuttoned surgeon cuff, because it would be square and show the lining.
The turn back cuff is generally sewn in and the buttons remain in the same position. For evening wear, such as a tailcoat or a dinner jacket/tuxedo, you can even wear a cuff in satin silk that matches the lapel – see Tom Ford or Prince Charles. I once even saw a version that was tailored in a way so it could be removed eventually without leaving any evidence behind. So, if you decide to add a cuff on your next coat, you can discuss this option with your tailor.
While the rounded cuff is definitely the most wide spread style, there are also square cuffs with piping. Cuffs of different sizes can also alter the appearance. At the end of the day, it is entirely up to you what shape you settle on, though bear in mind that a turn back cuff is in itself so unusual, that even a simple cuff will stand out without further adornment.
Do you own a jacket with cuffs on it? If so, chances are it was a custom made piece. Do you like cuffs and would you consider them on a tuxedo jacket?
I look forward to your replies in the comments below!