Cufflinks have a long history in men’s fashion. They first appeared in France in the early sixteenth-century. These early versions were made of string that tied men’s loose-fitting linen shirts together. They would eventually be developed under the reign of Louis XIV to become known as boutons de manchette, or “sleeve buttons,” which comprised of a set of coloured baubles joined together by a short, linked chain. By 1715, these simple glass buttons developed into the recognisable designs we see today consisting of studs connected by gold or silver links and have evolved into a series of refinements of the original styles.
Cufflinks are an essential accessory to any well-groomed man’s wardrobe. But with a wide array of styles on the market, it can be difficult to know which is the perfect set for your dress ensemble. The beauty of cufflinks is that when they are worn right, they can either be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. This makes them suitable for wear at the office, weddings, dinners, private events and even informal outings. Below are our tips for choosing the right cufflinks for every occasion.
Choosing the Right Type - Most men will know that cufflinks ought to match a shirt, but with the plethora of options available it can be tough knowing which are the most appropriate. The first step is being aware of your closure type. Different closures affect the fitting of your shirtsleeves as well as your ensemble’s overall appearance. With so many closure types available, it would be sensible for one to assume that each closure corresponds to a different level of formality. However, with the exception of silk knot and fabric cufflinks - which are typically worn at informal events - this is generally not the case. Names such as ‘bullet back & toggle’ or ‘whale back’ simply refer to the specific way in which that cufflink is fastened and each is suitable for most occasions.
The ‘bullet back & toggle,’ for instance, is the most common type as it tends to be the most secure and easy to fasten. The ‘bullet,’ or small metal cylinder, is suspended between two posts and turned ninety degrees to secure. Other types include the ‘ball return’ that provides a looser fitting than the bullet back and is simply slipped through the shirt buttonhole via its fixed backing. The chain link cufflink, which is the most traditional closure, is typically comprised of two rectangular pieces of metal suspended between a thread of chain. Each cufflink, regardless of its closure, will vary in formality depending on the material or pattern of its ornamental discs.
Materials for Different Occasions - The material of the cufflink is the primary determinant of its formality. Traditionally, cufflinks made from precious stones — diamonds, opal, rubies, etc. — are reserved for formal occasions, such as white tie events. Simply designed cufflinks made from gold or silver are also acceptable for formal occasions. Designs made from titanium, enamel or glass are the most versatile as they can be worn to the office, to black tie events or even banquets. Reserve cufflinks made from silk or fabric for more informal occasions, such as summer outings.
Picture courtesy of S. J. Philips
Less is More - Traditionally, cufflinks should be simply designed and not overly ornate. They are meant to accentuate your dress ensemble and add to it a sense of formality, but not overshadow it. Cufflinks made from traditional gold, platinum, glass and titanium will prove the most versatile; investing in a few pairs made from more luxurious materials, like enamel or precious stones, will mean that you also able to conform to more sophisticated dress requirements.
Avoid Novelty Cufflinks - Purchasing a pair of novelty cufflinks is tempting, especially when they are being bought as a gift for a close friend or relative. If your special someone is an avid golfer or car enthusiast, a pair of golf ball or race car cufflinks might seem like the perfect gift to show that person just how well you know them. But not only some of these designs can be tacky, there are few events where they make for acceptable dress. Instead of investing in a pair of novelty cufflinks that are unlikely to ever leave their box, choose a classic silver or platinum pair instead and save your sentimentality for the accompanying card.
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17th September 2015