When it comes to men’s style, the classic styles are the timeless ones – a good rule to remember when investing in a wardrobe. Cufflinks have been used in some form or another since the Middle Ages, and are preferred by the stylish gentleman over buttons for holding shirt cuffs together. They are definitely more ornamental, and add a nice sophistication to almost any costume.
Origin Of Cufflinks
The modern cufflink most likely orginated in the 17th century, from a pair of ornamental buttons linked by a chain. This contraption was especially favoured by upperclass Englishmen. Period jewelers began producing what they called “sleeve buttons” in silver and gold, with etched or stamped designs, and often encrusted with precious gems. Cufflinks were popularized in the 17th century by royals, such as King Charles II, who commemorated weddings and other special events with them. Soon, the wearing of cufflinks became the mark of a discerning gentleman.
EVOLUTION OF CUFFLINKS
As the non-aristocrat masses started picking up on the trend, a wide range of cufflinks of different materials spawned – gold, silver, precious gems, and glass paste among them. This explosion in popularity and designs was further accelerated by the Industrial Revolution, which made cufflinks available at affordable prices and enabled new designs to be created easily. Soon, the chains were replaced with rods and fasteners with easy-to-close clips.
THE FRENCH CUFF
As the price of cufflinks became more affordable during the 19th Century, businessmen of varying classes began wearing cufflinks and stud sets for more casual wear, expanding beyond the traditional gala or evening event. It was also around this time that the Double Cuff (aka French Cuff) was created in France. The French Cuff is a style of cuffs that are fastened in a ‘kissing’ manner, with both cuffs facing each other instead of overlapping. This elongated look makes it rather dressier as compared to the barrel cuff (overlapping cuff). It is thought to be inspired by Alexandre Dumas’ nineteenth century novel The Count of Monte-Cristo – specifically, a quote describing Baron Danglars as a man whose presence sparked great envy when onlookers “gazed on the enormous diamond that glittered in his shirt, and the red ribbon that depended from his button-hole”. So sumptuous and handsome a description was this, that tailors immediately recognized how outfitting french society with such details could distinguish their clients and add a new chapter to modern man’s costume.
THE MODERN CUFFLINK
In the 20th century, cufflinks were manufactured with bullet-back and whale-back closure mechanisms to facilitate convenient donning. This was also the period that cufflinks started to give way to dress shirts with sewn-on buttons. However, this is hardly unfortunate as its uncommonness and residual ease of manufacture makes the cufflink a simple and affordable way to distinguish oneself and truly transform a suit into one’s own. This is especially true these days when the cufflink’s popularity is still high in circles of discerning gentlemen, but hardly an overwhelming convention.
Men’s fashion is underscored by simplicity, universality, versatility, and immortality. Cufflinks, especially the classic designs, are one of the rare few accessories to be inducted into the Hall of Timelessness of men’s fashion, alongside other long-standing counterparts like the wristwatch, necktie and pocket square. You can never go wrong with purchasing one.