The History of Cufflinks

Posted by JewelryKind

Having featured in human history for almost 500 years, cufflinks have maintained an audience for a number of centuries and are still an inspiring accessory that can be worn in a number of ways.

The first sign of an early cufflink style came during the 17th century, when cuff ties gave way to jewelled buttons which held the cuff together instead. These ‘Sleeve Buttons’ became popular incredibly quickly because of their visual style and association with the upper classes. A symbol of finery and wealth, cufflinks were made from silver, gold and other precious metals and jewels.

By the 18th century, these sleeve buttons had become even more prized and over-elaborate. Many wearers would engrave their cufflinks or fashion them using a piece of quartz or glass, creating works of art on the underside. Conversely, this started to reduce the popularity of the accessory because they were unattainable for the majority of social classes due of the expense of creation. However, this was all to change when the Industrial Revolution took hold.

Toward the end of the Revolution, in the 1820’s, different materials were used to create cuff buttons and they were therefore opened up to the middle and working classes once again. Rhinestones were used to replace diamond, pinchbeck was used to replace gold and steel marcasite was used for silver. This enabled mass production and therefore popularity grew immensely.

However, in the 1840’s, a fashion style from across the channel helped transform the cufflink in Britain. The French had been wearing the double cuff shirt for a number of years and it had become an internationally recognised style of shirt thanks to Alexandre Dumas and his publication, The Three Musketeers. The double cuff began to quickly replace the single cuff, which meant that a new style of cuff button was needed. This is when the modern cuff link as we know it was truly born. However, the French cuff movement once again confined the new cuff link to the possession of the upper classes only.

In 1882, a major breakthrough was achieved. George Krementz, a German jeweller, created a machine that would enable the mass production of cuff links at a very low cost. This opened up the new style of cuff link to the masses once more and its popularity consequentially exploded.

The beginning of the 20th century saw the popularity of enamel cuff links reach their peak, thanks to the Art Deco movement. Hugely popular craftsmen such as Faberge, Tiffanys and Cartier began to use enamel to create unique cuff link styles. Early copies of these enamel cuff links are incredibly sought after by collectors and can fetch a pretty penny at auctions.

1924 saw the invention of the Boyer fastener system. The Boyer company created the titled stick that sat between a double stem, which was then subsequently fixed to a base. This remains the most popular method of cuff link fastening in the world today and enabled designers to worry about the aesthetics of the accessory rather than the mechanism.

The 1970’s became a worrying time for the cufflink, as shirts with built-in buttons became a regular sight in the retail market. However, the haute couture style that dominated the wardrobes of the celebrity and wealthy of the day ensured that cuff links were still kept in the public eye, and once again associated them with the upper classes.

By the 1990’s the French cuff shirt had returned to fashion once again, meaning that cuff links made a comeback and became a main stream fashion accessory once again. For the first time in history, youth culture embraced cuff links and a new generation of wearers was created. This meant that the cufflink had lost its associated with the wealthy and upper classes for good. It had become an almost essential accessory for men and women, especially those who adhered to alternative cultures.

Today, cuff links can be found in almost every culture in the world. Social status and personal style no longer plays a part in the cuff link. Instead, they are enjoyed comprehensively by all.

However, there is perhaps no more frequently used accessory in formal menswear than the cuff link. It offers a formality, style and touch of colour to any suit, even that ghastly looking three-piece that has been hiding at the back of the cupboard for what seems like decades!

In today’s market, it is quirky cuff links that are redefining the accessory itself. Whether it be a distinctive shape or effervescent shade, designers, like English Cufflinks, are relishing using cufflinks as an elegant touch of class that can be added to any outfit, formal or otherwise.


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