Surgeon's cuffs are a buzzword in the world of classic menswear, but not everyone knows or whether they live up to the hype. Surgeon's cuffs are a jacket cuff that has working buttons, which originated from Savile Row in London. The history of buttons on jacket sleeves dates back to the 17th century, where turn-back cuffs were famous for featuring multiple, highly-decorative buttons. However, by the 1670s, the cuffs would begin being sewn onto the sleeves as separate pieces with buttons being purely decorative. Reflecting the fashions at the time, military uniforms started to incorporate these styles.
Surgeon's cuffs are often touted as a feature only found in high-quality suits. However, many other tailors and suit manufacturers, even those not on Savile Row, have started including functioning buttons on their jacket sleeves. Working cuff buttons are closely associated with quality and wealth, which is why many men leave one of their cuff buttons undone to show that they appreciate and can afford quality.
However, working buttonholes on a jacket sleeve can present quite a problem when you need to get a sleeve altered. Once buttonholes are cut, that's where they're always going to be in the fabric. So, if you need to get your sleeve shortened or lengthened, this will have to be done from the shoulder of the jacket, which is much more difficult and time-consuming.
Moreover, there is less and less of a practical application for surgeon's cuffs these days. Unlike previous centuries, which were governed by strict rules of etiquette, it's now socially acceptable for a man to simply take his jacket off if he needs to. Furthermore, even if you wanted to roll up your jacket sleeves and had the ability to, it wouldn't necessarily be a quick task as you're typically going to have to deal with eight sleeve buttons in total. That's before we even get to your shirts' buttons or cufflinks for that matter. There are also risks of uncomfortable bunching when you roll your jacket sleeves up and an overall sloppy appearance.
In conclusion, while surgeon's cuffs have a deep and interesting history and can be a beautiful element of handmade clothing, they may not be as practical as they once were. To some, they might be magical, but to others, they might be more of a myth. The decision to include them in a jacket ultimately depends on personal preference and the practicality of having the buttons on the sleeve.