The History of Cufflinks

When it comes to men’s accessories, specifically jewelry, the old adage “less is more” comes to mind. In fact, in the world of fashion, that’s exactly the case.

Besides a watch and ring, there really aren’t many other articles of jewelry that a man should wear. However, one acceptable, and perhaps overlooked, piece are cufflinks.

Where exactly did cufflinks originate from? Will, you’re about to find out, but first, what exactly are cufflinks?

What are Cufflinks?

Keeping this short and to the point, cufflinks are simply “small ornamental clasps designed to keep the cuffs of a shirt or blouse tightly fastened closed.”

That’s it.

History of Cufflinks

Believe it or not, cufflinks have been a part of a man’s wardrobe since the Middle Ages.

Originally, men held their clothes together with pins, straps, laces and the longstanding “cuff strings”. By the 13th Century, however, tailors began using buttons as fasteners. This trend gained popularity during the Renaissance with the development of the worked (stitched) buttonhole. By the time that the post-Renaissance period arrived in the 1600s, the two ornamented buttons, attached in the middle with a link of chain, became de rigeur among the upper classes of Europe, especially Great Britain.

Period jewelers began producing what they called “sleeve buttons” in silver and gold, with etched or stamped designs, and often encrusted with precious gems. Royals commemorated weddings and other special events with them, and the wearing of cufflinks became the mark of a gentleman.

King Charles II, who was known for his fashion sense, was one such member of the upper class that popularized cufflinks. Wearing cufflinks regularly in public helped influence people’s opinions on the new clothing accessory.

It was also during the 17th Century that men in general began searching for a more elegant way to hold their cuffs together. Men began using small chains that were fastened to the end of a gold or silver button and fed through the holes of the cuff to keep them together. Glass buttons, which were a low-cost alternative to diamonds, also appeared during the late 17th Century.

By the time of the 18th Century, a new jewel material known as glass paste, came into widespread use. It was made made up of ground-up glass and resembled faceted gems. Paste became a popular material for covering cufflinks and buttons. Soon, the English fashion spread to France, where it became popular among the nobility. In 1788, the first known record of the word “cufflink” appeared.

Some believe that the French, or Double, cuff originated in 1845 with Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Count of Monte-Cristo. The novel described Baron Danglars’s elegantly adorned cuffs “so splendid an equipage must needs be all that was admirable and enviable, more especially when they gazed on the enormous diamond that glittered in his shirt, and the red ribbon that depended from his button-hole,” which inspired French tailors to begin making doubled-over, or French, cuffs.

However, it was during the Industrial Revolution, that high production of low-cost cuff links enabled a greater variety of cufflinks to be manufactured. Chains were replaced with rods and fasteners with easy-to-close clips. Many popular designers and dress shirt makers began producing cufflink-compatible shirts and custom cufflink products. These were offered at more affordable prices, which accelerated the fierce popularity of men’s and women’s cufflinks.

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.

The 20th Century saw the continuation of affordable and innovative cufflinks. In the 1920s, jewelry designers invented the T-post and flip hinges, followed by the Snap-together cufflinks in the Thirties. From the 1930s to the 1960s, there were numerous low-end manufacturers. These included Swank, Anson and Hickok, who turned out millions of inexpensive cufflinks in standard designs.

Unfortunately, the late 20th Century also witnessed shirt manufacturers who began mass-producing dress and tuxedo shirts with buttons on the cuffs. This resulted in a low-period for the cufflink industry.

Today, the cufflink has seen a resurgence for both men and women and can be found in various designs and styles, Clearly, cufflinks are one elegant accessory that is here to stay.

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