Thanks to the industrial revolution, designs and styles of cufflinks have exploded. With so many different designs to choose from, how do we pick the right one for the right occasion? Some of the questions we worry about are whether the cufflinks are practically designed (i.e easy to put on/take off, secure), the lifespan, as well as the formality of the pair. In this post, we set out to explore desirable features of cufflinks, and which cufflinks should be worn/gifted for which occasions.
With so many closure types available, it would be sensible for one to assume that each closure corresponds to a different level of formality. However, with the exception of silk knot and fabric cufflinks – which are typically worn at informal events – this is generally not the case. Names such as ‘bullet back & toggle’ or ‘whale back’ simply refer to the specific way in which that cufflink is fastened and each is suitable for most occasions.
The ‘bullet back & toggle,’ for instance, is the most common type as it tends to be the most secure and easy to fasten. The ‘bullet,’ or small metal cylinder, is suspended between two posts and turned ninety degrees to secure. ‘Whale back’ closure mechanisms are similar to ‘bullet back’ ones, except that it utilizes a flat ‘whale tail’ instead of a ‘bullet’, making it easier to handle. We recommend that you only get cufflinks that utilize either a ‘bullet back’ or ‘whale tail’ closure mechanism as they are the easiest to put in and yet the most secure. All Eminence cufflinks only use either ‘bullet back’ or ‘whale tail’ closure mechanisms!
Other types include the ‘ball return’ that provides a looser fitting than the bullet back and is simply slipped through the shirt buttonhole via its fixed backing. The chain link cufflink, which is the most traditional closure, is typically comprised of two rectangular pieces of metal suspended between a thread of chain. These alternatives are either harder to put in (like the ‘ball return’ and button cufflinks) or less secure (like chain cufflinks).
A key factor to note in men’s fashion is convenience and practicality. With that said, you want to get cufflinks of a material that is easy to use and maintain. Make sure you get cufflinks that are made from materials resistant to tarnishing such as titanium stainless steel, rhodium-plated alloy, silver, and gold.
For daily and frequent wear, pure 24k gold and fine silver may not be suitable as a cufflink material as they are soft and easily scratched. Imagine scratching your $300 cufflinks across the table top from typing all day! You’ll want to reserve these treasured pieces for more special and formal ceremonies like weddings. If you want to wear gold or silver cufflinks, harder alloys will make a better material for frequent use. 18k gold is an alloy of gold composed of 75% gold and 25% base metal and is much less expensive and more scratch-resistant than 24k(99.9% gold) gold, though duller. Sterling silver is another example of an alloy of a fine metal, composed of 92.5% silver and 7.5% base metal.
Material is a factor in the formality of a cufflink as well. As mentioned above, fabric and silk knot cufflinks are almost informal, while gold and silver cufflinks are the most formal. Cufflinks made from titanium, stainless stell, brass etc are versatile and can be worn for a variety of occasions from informal to black tie events, depending on the design.
Unless you are getting a pair of novelty cufflinks, try to keep the design simple. Afterall, classic men’s fashion is earmarked by simple and timeless elements. Cufflinks themselves have been around for almost 400 years! You may learn about the different varieties of cufflink designs as well as the occasions they are suitable for at in this article.