Since their creation, cufflinks have been seen as a symbol of wealth, power and reputation. Cufflinks as a symbol for luxury have been used by gentlemen (and other men) en masse since the late 19th century. This was of course made possible by the industrialization during that time, not unlike the mass production of so many other garments and products. Industrialization made it possible for the everyday man to wear garments and accessories that were previously available to upper-class customers only.
Cufflinks were introduced to the public by King Charles II, wearing his in the 17th century. Charles II regularly wore cufflinks in the public, influencing the people’s opinion on these elegant accessories. It influenced royalty and aristocracy to start wearing cufflinks to celebrate Royal events and special occasions, just like we do today.
As mentioned earlier, the new manufacturing possibilities in the late 1800’s meant a wider spread, but also a development in cufflink designs. Like most jewellery of the Victorian era, designs became more exuberant and ostentatious during this time in history. Gold and silver cufflinks were at their peak and were covered with extravagant and intricate designs, often with glorious gemstones. During this time cufflinks with writhing and intertwined snakes gained popularity, a design that is now referred to as ”Victorian Serpents”.
In the early 1900’s more cufflinks than ever were worn, enameled cufflinks with stunning and colourful designs becoming quite popular. And when the shortages after the wars evanesced men liked to embellish their outfits with a wide range of accessories, not least cufflinks. This was the reality up until the twilight of the 20th century, when makers started mass-producing shirts with cuff buttons. This leads us to modern day usage, where cufflinks are generally used at formal events (black/white tie), or with your business suit.
Today, the double cuff, or the French cuff, as it is also called, is a rare sight at regular offices. Basically because of fashion trends generally going towards a more casual average. The double cuff is more formal because it folds over and hides the seam at its end. As with black tie trousers, hiding a seam makes things smoother and is therefore seen as more formal. Such a shirt is great with a suit but may look odd under knitwear or paired with casual blazers. Even if you’re not commonly wearing formal suits, I want to encourage you to own a double-cuffed shirt or two. It is a nice change and wearing cufflinks makes you feel a little extra elegant. And, cufflinks are still, after a watch and a wedding ring, the only universal way for a man to wear jewellery.
Generally speaking - choosing the right cufflinks is like choosing any other piece to express your sense of flair, it’s a matter of taking in aspects of style and adapting to the kind of occasion you’re attending. If you’re just out and about in a suit, cufflinks can add that personal touch - something that opens for more variety in your choices. With a business suit, a pair of brightly coloured cufflinks can be very elegant, a pair with a more eccentric design can add coolness. On the other hand, if you’re wearing black tie, please be more careful. I would say that, with a black tie, simpler is generally better. Go for a subtle pair to match the shirt studs.
Many traditions from the history of cufflinks are still current today, such as cufflinks as a gift to the groomsman at a wedding or to celebrate a graduation. Even though design and materials differ today, cufflinks are still a status marker for high-society and fashion interested alike.
Read more on cufflinks in this informative and highly interesting book, by Liaut & Pizzin:
// Linus Johansson.