Cufflinks have been a staple in menswear for about 800 years, they have added a touch of fantasy and originality to men’s wardrobes and to formal men’s styles, more or less like ties do.
They’re usually composed of two parts, or of a circular part with a pivot on the back. The front part can have different shapes and be made of a variety of materials, among which gold and gemstones, making cufflinks real pieces of jewelry.
Cufflinks have always been a symbol of elegance and power: ancient hieroglyphs found in Tutankhamon’s tomb are proof of their use in leather bracelets.
Among the first evidences of their existence, we can go back to the post-Renaissance era, when cufflinks, which were then called ‘sleeve buttons’, appear on the cufflinks of men belonging to high bourgeoisie and British aristocracy.
Tailors started using them to decorate their richest customers’s sleeves, to substitute strings and straps which used to fasten cuffs. With the help of jewellers, they used a big variety of materials, from silver to gold and precious gemstones, in order to showcase their status.
The use of cufflinks became more and more popular even outside United Kingdom and arrived to France; in aristocratic circles they became almost an obliged piece for outfits. They were the irreplaceable, refined and sought-after detail of powerful men. It is in France where they change their names and, for the first time in 1788, are called “cufflinks”.
At the end of the Napoleonic era, Faberge’ perfected the technique of enamelled jewellery and started exporting his products around the world. In 1845, cufflinks first appeared in the history of literature in Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, where he describes Baron Danglars’s elegantly adorned wrists.
During the industrial revolution, with the arrival of the first machines producing buttons, and with the subsequent use of cheaper materials, cufflinks became affordable for everybody.
Being associated with extremely elegant outfits and very formal occasions didn’t help cufflinks though and their use decreased until they almost disappeared in 1950s.
The 80s represents rebirth. Cufflinks are brought back by designers and suggested for important occasions such as weddings and ceremonies as well as for casual, informal and laid-back situations and outfits.
Nowadays, cufflinks are used more informally by young professionals, who love to take care of every detail in their look.