Rules for Monogramming Shirt Cuffs

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Monogrammed shirt cuffs should be meticulous and discreet.
Monogrammed shirt cuffs should be meticulous and discreet. (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A dress shirt with cuffs that are monogrammed signifies that the man wearing it does not settle for common apparel standards. Shirts with monograms typically display the initials of a man's name. The monogram is stitched onto the shirt cuff fabric and stands out by virtue of contrasting color and texture. Menswear experts generally advise against shirt cuff monograms that are too ornate, especially on French cuffs that require cuff link accessories for closure.

Dress Shirt Basics

Menswear custom tailor, historian and author Alan Flusser maintains that choosing the right dress shirt is key to projecting a professional image. The fabric, the color, the pattern, collar style, the fit and the cuff details all help determine how well-dressed and authoritative a man appears. Just as attentive eyes are drawn to bold patterns or wide, spread collars on a shirt, monograms on the cuffs attract attention, too.

Shirt Cuff Basics

Most cuffed dress shirts are mass-produced or custom-made in two basic styles. The "barrel," which feature one or two buttons on the cuff that extends straight down to the hinge between the wrists and hands. The French -- or "double" -- cuff is made with extra fabric that extends over the hands and must be folded back to be fastened, usually with cuff links or decorative buttons. Long-held tailoring standards suggest that between 1/4 and 1/2 of an inch of shirt cuff should be visible beneath the sleeve of a suit jacket or sport coat.

Monogram Rules

The consensus among noted fashion experts is that monogrammed shirt cuffs should discreetly display a man's initials, rather than an elaborate design or a company logo. Monograms on the cuff make the shirt appear customized, even if it was a ready-to-wear with initials embroidered on after the purchase. Monograms were originally worn for practical purposes, not for show. They came in handy to help launderers distinguish one man's shirt from another. Choose a subtle and small color and letter font for the monogram to avoid appearing ostentatious. With a three-initial monogram, have the first and second initials of your name stitched to the left and right, respectively, with the last initial placed in the center and of slightly larger size.

Monogram Manners

Remember that monogrammed cuffs serve purely decorative purposes in the modern era. Business associates may perceive them as pompous, pretentious or self-possessed sartorial choices. Nick Sullivan, long-time "GQ" magazine fashion pundit, described them in a 2005 advice column as "a sure sign of the irredeemable vulgarian." In a 2002 column, he quipped, "Never buy a used car from a man with his initials on his shirtsleeve." Teri Agins, award-winning fashion reporter for the "Wall Street Journal," also cautions against an ostentatious look. "Use the tiniest embroidered lettering -- perhaps in a tone close to your shirt color so that the monogram looks embossed, instead of printed," she says.

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