Cufflinks: A History of Style

A version of this article appeared in the Toronto-based magazine, Village Living. 

Sterling Silver Navette Cufflinks

Before the French cuff shirt was invented (in France, no less), cuffs were just an open slit up the arm that could be tied around the wrist with a piece of string. The first cufflinks were “sleeve buttons”, tiny glass forms with chains running between them. Not surprisingly, in the court of Louis the XIV, functional became fancy, and the decorative cufflink was born. As menswear became more casual in the 20th century, cufflinks fell out of fashion, but now that formal and fancy are back in vogue, cufflinks are making a comeback. Because let’s face it, you can fasten your cuffs with super-creative, discreet, unique and cool icons, but they just don’t translate well onto a tie pattern.

 Handmade Sterling Silver Studio1098 Penny Cufflinks

Cufflinks are a classy, professional way to spruce up your outfit. Nice cufflinks show you’ve really put some thought into your appearance, and demonstrate that you’ve got character without generating half-a-dozen parody twitter handles like @MayorFordsTie.

So what to look for in a good cufflink? Apart from design, you’ll also want to look at durability and ease of use. Cufflinks made from precious metals (sterling silver, gold or platinum) are going to be stronger and hold together better than costume jewellery novelty cufflinks. The solder joint or glue holding the novelty cufflink to its backing simply isn’t as strong as the solders used for precious metals, and that makes those novelty cufflinks vulnerable to breaking when they get slammed against tables, desks and granite countertops

 Sterling Silver Studio1098 Goalie Cufflink

On the design side, you’ll want to think about, well… you. What expresses your personality? Want to get kisses because you’re Irish? Consider shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day. Sports nut? Goalie masks, basketballs, baseballs and sports team logos are all great choices. Especially if you’ve just won the office pool and want to remind everyone who knows how to pick ‘em. Think you’re superman? Love comic books? Fly fishing? Speak Klingon? Cufflinks let you express some of the quirkiest elements of your character tastefully, with a touch of old-world class.

Cufflinks make great gifts. Maple leaf cufflinks make a great citizenship gift, or gift to a Canadian co-worker or friend who is going of to work abroad. Cufflinks are often given as groomsman’s gifts, and of course, for Father’s Day and Christmas. You can also put your cufflinks to good use by wearing them to raise awareness for a cause, like moustache themed “Movember” cufflinks, or poppy cufflinks for Remembrance Day. I took great pride last year when a certain outspoken hockey personality wore his poppy cufflinks proudly on the Remembrance Day edition of Hockey Night in Canada.

Don Cherry wearing Studio1098 Poppy Cufflinks

Cufflinks can be used to raise money for causes, for companies to recognize employees, as client gifts, and even as awards. Really, who needs another clunky piece of plastic to stick on a shelf somewhere? You don’t have to dust cufflinks. So much is possible. And cufflinks are not just for men – I have a few French cuff shirts and wear cufflinks myself sometimes, as do a number of my female clients. Never seen a woman in a french-cuff shirt? You’re missing out! So think about whether cufflinks can help you express your inner you, and if they can, get yourself some french-cuff shirts!

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