Q: When we went to a black-tie party recently, my fiance looked terrific. But instead of wearing studs in his formal shirt, he wore it buttoned. He had on beautiful cuff links he inherited from his granddad. I would like to give him a set of studs for Christmas. Then he'll have them for our wedding in June and for years to come. Do I have to buy matching cuff links, too?
A: Some men don't wear studs in a formal shirt; the unadorned look of buttons appeals to them. But to most eyes a pleated-front dress shirt with buttons rather than studs looks undressed, or like something young men wear with jeans.
Unlike regular shirts, formal shirts come with an unusual button arrangement: They do not have buttons on one side and corresponding buttonholes on the other. Instead, they are designed with a set of buttonholes on both front edges of the shirt.
In the store, the shirt looks as though it buttons normally. To package it for retail sales, the manufacturer supplies a strip of ribbon with sewn-on buttons that fit through both sets of buttonholes. When you open the shirt to wear it, you remove the ribbon with its attached buttons and substitute a set of studs -- small pieces of jewelry that slip through the buttonholes and act as fasteners.
Studs vary. The most elaborate and expensive sets from top-notch jewelry stores are made of gold or platinum and precious gemstones (diamonds, rubies, sapphires). This is the one time when a man may correctly indulge in a discreet sprinkling of clear, glittering stones. Far less expensive, plain gold studs are always correct. No man need forgo owning studs because of price: Black onyx or white mother-of-pearl styles range from affordable to inexpensive. The new tiny silk-knot studs and cuff links, though hard to find, are unique and make good stocking stuffers.
Formal shirts are always worn with cuff links. Generally they match the studs, but there is no law that says they must.