The Guide: Functional Cuffs
The cuff buttons on some suit jackets can be buttoned and unbuttoned; the cuff buttons on other suit jackets are just for show. Have you ever wondered why this is?
Firstly, there’s a historical explanation for why cuffs have buttons at all. Way before scrubs became a thing, surgeons wore a jacket and tie to work. Needless to say, that job required them to roll up their sleeves—quite literally—and having a few functional buttons on the sleeve made that easier. Although no one is wearing a suit to perform heart surgery these days, functional cuffs are still sometimes referred to as “surgeon’s cuffs.”
Still, functional cuffs persisted as a sign of quality, and traditionally appeared on custom made suits. Off the rack suits typically had non-functional cuffs with purely decorative buttons. There are two reasons for this: functional cuffs are more expensive, and it is much more difficult to lengthen or shorten a sleeve if the cuffs are functional. In recent times more off the rack suits have been made with functional cuffs, but unless the sleeves fit perfectly it’s a risky purchase.
So, what’s the benefit of having functional cuffs anyway? Sure, you could roll them up in case you have to change your car’s oil (we still don’t recommend doing this in a suit), but in more realistic terms it simply gives you the option to be a bit more expressive and even dress down a suit. Go ahead and undo one button (or two, or three, or even four) if the mood strikes. And of course, you can snap them back into place in a flash when it’s time to get back to business.