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Bits of Folly

February 29, 1996|WILLIAM KISSEL

Top menswear designers Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Richard Tyler have all eschewed slouchy suits for a more refined silhouette. So it's fitting that French cuff shirts and cuff links are coming out of the closet.

But this time, instead of adding to the sober sartorial look, cuff links are part of a new stuffed-shirt rebellion.

"In London you've got 24-year-old guys with Caesar haircuts and earrings wearing Saville Row-looking suits," says Scott Hill of the Los Angeles store of the same name. He believes the tailored trend is making its way across the Atlantic. "Here in L.A. we're also getting away from T-shirts worn with baggy suits and into a more fitted look. And the cuff links really finish it off."

Proof of this sartorial redux is in the numbers: Sales of French cuff shirts have jumped 5% to 20% over the past year in several stores around town. Interest in cuff links--from colored marbles and vintage enameled crests to sculpted precious metals--has been even stronger.

At Saks Fifth Avenue Beverly Hills, they fill an entire circular display case on the main floor of the new men's store. Sales have been "really hot," says fashion director Kelly Bevan Spirer. Bestsellers include contemporary clock faces and cookie cutouts in sterling silver, chosen over the more traditional knots and cloisonnes.

"I think they are doing so well because men are starting to update their shirts with new accessories, just as women have been doing for years," Spirer says.

Ostensibly designed for function, cuff links do more than keep a man's cuffs from flapping. They offer a bit of folly.

"They're a man's way of making a suit more distinctive," says Kennon Earl, men's clothing buyer at Ron Ross in Studio City. "Maybe he'll wear a suit that a designer puts together for him, but he can show his own taste level on his sleeve. His choice in cuff links says a lot about a guy's personality."

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