The Definitive Guide To Cufflinks

The cufflink has been around for ages and is thought of as a symbol of prestige and style. Today wearing a set of cufflinks not only sets the tone for your entire outfit, but it can also give you that extra boost when it comes to making a lasting impression. However, before we move forward in cufflink style, let's take a look at some historical facts about this elegant, yet practical invention.

Where it all Began

The dress shirt started to make an appearance in the 16th century. At this time it had ruffled wristbands. These needed to be kept together, so the earliest 'cufflink' or rather a 'cuff string' was invented. These remained popular throughout the era until the reign of Louis XIV. This began the more practical invention of the 'sleeve button,' as it was called. This was fashioned from identical pairs of coloured glass buttons joined together by a short, linked chain.

By 1715 the more traditional cufflink was being designed. They were made from decorated jewels or diamonds and were connected with gold links.

As the Industrial Revolution swept forward, so did the cufflink. Rods and clips replaced the chain and the prices came down. Shirt makers also jumped on board and started to make their products 'cufflink ready,' further upping the popularity of the cufflink. By the 19th century, with the mass producing of the cufflink, prices were driven even lower, making them more practical and accessible to the average man.

In 1904 a French designer by the name of, Charvet, introduced the popular silk knot or 'monkey's fists.' These were made from twisted silk braid, but were pricey. Today, the knot-style cufflink can still be purchased, but it is made from cheaper materials such as elastic or metal shaped to form a knot.

Once the 20th century was in full swing, the button was invented and dress shirts no longer needed the assistance of a cufflink to keep the sleeves together. Companies like Cartier and Tiffany, however, still sold an expensive line of cufflinks.

Cufflink Styles

Although the decorative part of the cufflink comes in a variety of styles and themes, they all use one of these five distinct closing methods;

  • Bullet Back and Toggle Closures; This is the most common and easiest of all the cufflink closures. The back of the mechanism is shaped like a bullet (hence the name) and is suspended between two posts. This bullet is then flipped vertically so it lines up with the posts. It is then inserted through the buttonhole and flipped back to its original position, securing it into place.

  • Whale Back Closure; As the name suggests, this cufflink has a straight post with a whale-shape closure at the end. By inserting the post into the buttonhole, then flipping the 'tail' back horizontally, it keeps the cufflink firmly in place.

  • Fixed Backing; The backing and post on this cufflink is one solid, fixed piece. The fixed backing is more resilient due to the lack of moving parts. It can also be used in reverse. However, it may be a bit more difficult to insert into the buttonhole.

  • Chain Link; Taken from the original design of cufflinks, the two sides of the cuff is joined together with a chain. It makes for an attractive feature, and also gives more flexibility in the cuff's tightness. However, it may take more nimble fingers to fasten them together. ● Ball Return; The benefit of this design is it's available in both chain link and fixed closures. Plus, it offers a more attractive backing than the ordinary bullet or toggle styles.

How To Use Cufflinks

If you are new to the cufflink world, then follow these four easy steps to successfully using them;

First be sure you have the right shirt. French or Double cuff shirts work best as the cuffs are longer than normal dress shirts and they don't have any buttons.

Second, fold the cuff back and line it up with the end of the sleeve. This should form a nice neat even line.

Third, hold the cuffs open edges together and lie the two sides flat against the wrist. Line up the holes.

Fourth, insert the cufflink and fasten it by using its individual style (see guide above).

Note; when your arm is resting at your side, you should be able to see the decorative part of the cufflink facing out.

Dressing With Cufflinks

Now that we know how each different cufflink style works, all that's left to do is pick one. However, this may not be a simple task. The fashion side of cufflinks has grown tremendously over the years; gone are the days of a simple color-faced closure. Now cufflinks come in many different fashion trends from traditional, sports themes, animals, career inspired, military and novelty. Some even allow for adding a personalized engraving.

So how do you decide which ones to purchase or wear? This is simply based on the occasion. Try to stay away from over flashy or novelty cufflinks when going to a wedding, or a sophisticated dinner with your boss or employees. Reserve these for a birthday, casual dinners or even New Year's Eve, when the dress is fun and celebratory, rather than elegant. Also, manufactures have many 'everyday' cufflinks that will do the job, but still add some personal flair to a normally boring suit.

Once you use cufflinks the options for style and adding your own personality to your everyday shirts is going to work wonders for your wardrobe. Plus, they also make fabulous gifts for groomsmen, fathers or any man that just wants to add something different to his wardrobe.