Monograms are a priceless way to showcase one’s sophistication, class and general disconnection with the common man. There are a multitude of products that may be embossed with initials; handkerchiefs, towels, cufflinks, wallets, ties and socks to name a few, but the fast track to hob-knobbing with the rich and separating yourself from the chafe is a monogrammed shirt cuff. A personalized cuff is visible enough to draw unspoken approval of one’s taste but understated enough to avoid flying in the face of conservative fashion. While some opt for placement on the breast pocket or shirt collar, these are certainly less popular than wearing initials on the sleeve.
While nobody can definitively peg the origin of the monogrammed shirt, it is generally accepted that boarding schools initiated the practice as a means to distinguish the lads’ uniforms from one another during laundry cycles. You can imagine young Willard’s horror at the thought of wearing another boy’s shirt, never mind having to actually do laundry. It is from these not-so-humble beginnings that the monogram found its way into modern fashion as the gentlemen of Eton College graduated to Oxford and then joined London City’s financial district before America visited Savile Row and exported the practice to the other side of the pond. Notable fashionistas with a penchant for flair included Fred Astaire and Cary Grant although the former tended towards discrete embroideries that only he was privy to; the rationale was that people already knew who he was. You can be sure that mentioning this tidbit to the boulevardier sporting a monogram will not help you pry open wealthy social circles.
A final word on monograms; typically a custom tailored shirt is the entry point for those that desire this touch of class. While you can add it to any piece of off-the-rack clothing, you will likely come off badly in a monogrammed Van Heusen or Arrow shirt. Remember, just because you can’t tell the difference between Egyptian cotton and a poly blend doesn’t mean the gentleman in Anderson & Sheppard French cuffs will be fooled by your aftermarket efforts. Not sure a monogram is for you; at the very least consider adding BSD to your cuff for the pure comic genius of your friends referring to you as a Big Swinging Dick.