30 August 2018

Everything You Need To Know About Cufflinks

The lines are becoming more and more blurred between men’s and women’s jewellery. Last year saw the ‘male choker’ rise in popularity, for instance, which had long been an item that was exclusive to ladies’ jewellery collections.
We still have traditions attached to various pieces of jewellery though, as evident by pieces like tie clips, signet rings and cufflinks which have all traditionally been worn by men. Focusing on cufflinks in particular, join antique silverware and jewellery stockists AC Silver as they take a look through the history of this ever-popular piece of jewellery and the various types currently available…

Defining cufflinks

Essentially, cufflinks act as an alternative to having buttons on the cuffs of shirts. Many shirts, especially ones made for more formal occasions will be made with no buttons on the cuffs, and instead, have two small holes to allow for cufflinks. Cufflinks offer more of a contrast than just having buttons on a shirt and also allow the wearer to show off a bit more of their own personality and personal style.
Then there are dress sets, which include collar studs and sometimes tie pins as well as cufflinks.

The history of cufflinks

The first evidence of cufflinks was recorded during the 15th century, but they did not become a popular piece of jewellery until the later years of the 18th century. Then as we moved into the 19th century, and more men were progressing to the middle classes, they began to wear a more conventional wardrobe: a suit by day and a dinner jacket of tailcoat in the evening. By the middle of the 19th century cufflinks had become very popular and every man in the middle and upper classes were wearing cufflinks. Alongside the industrial revolution, this meant that they could be mass produced and available within every price range.
Men with a lot of self-confidence were the only ones to wear coloured and gemstone cufflinks though. It was Edward VII (Prince of Wales at this time) that popularised coloured cufflinks by wearing colourful Fabergé cufflinks.

Various styles and designs of cufflinks began to be experimented by an ever-growing number of designers as we moved through the first half of the 20th century. As more cufflinks were being worn than ever before. They started becoming available in many different materials and colours, using precious stones as well as semi-precious stones and cheaper simulants. Coloured enamel cufflinks featuring intricate often geometric designs were very popular at this time.
It was around this time that a new sportier style of shirt began to hit the market. This attire featured unstarched cuffs, which could be fastened with simple buttons.

As we progressed into the 1950s, the global economy began to recover from the shortages that resulted from the Second World War. As a result, gentlemen of the period liked to adorn themselves in a range of different accessories. Such items included cigarette cases, lighters, tie accessories, wristwatches, and signet rings and of course this included an extensive assortment of cufflinks.

There was a dip in popularity surrounding cufflinks throughout the 1970s though. This is because many of the middle-class generation (the Woodstock generation) turned toward a more casual style of fashion. This meant most shirts were made with buttons on the cuffs, rather than holes left for cufflinks. Many heirlooms where also made into earrings.

Fortunately, cufflinks began their comeback during the 1980s within traditional male dress. This has continued into today, with more types and styles of cufflinks available than ever before. As well as a new found style of cufflinks being used by, and manufactured for women, as well.

The types of cufflinks available today

You have an abundance of styles and types to choose from when shopping for cufflinks today. In fact, cufflinks can be made from a variety of materials, and cufflinks made from gold or platinum can even be purchased, both with gemstones and without. You will also find there are options in less expensive metals, such as silver or titanium.
For more affordable items, there’s cufflinks constructed from soft cord or knotted silk as well.  However, take note that these are easily the least durable; this style is mainly preferred as a more casual choice. 

Fittings of cufflinks

Bullet back cufflinks and whale back cufflinks are two of the most common styles of cufflinks which are currently available.

What are bullet back cufflinks?

Bullet back cufflinks have proven popular as a result of their durability and because of how easy they are to wear. Rather than having a solid post, they have a hollow frame with a small bar or tube of metal that sits inside the frame. The tube can then rotate at a 90-degree angle, allowing the cufflinks to lock - leaving the hollow frame as the post.
Their design means that bullet back cufflinks will only have a single decorative face. Meanwhile, the back of these items is just the simple tube of metal.

What are whale back cufflinks?

You’ll recognise whale back cufflinks for their flat head and solid straight post design. There is a “whale tail” at the end that flips completely flat against the post. Like the bullet back cufflinks, the whale back cufflinks are very easy to use and very durable, this is what makes them a popular choice for most men.

A look at some other types of cufflinks available

What are ball return cufflinks?

You’ll be able to identify ball return cufflinks thanks to them having an arched post that comes complete with a small, heavy ball of metal on one end and a decorative face on the other end. They provide a slightly looser fastening than hinged cufflinks. They can be an expensive choice if they are made from precious metals, due to the size and weight of the ball, adding to the material cost of the item. The ball can sometimes be decorated with a small symbol, or it can be left plain.

What are chain link cufflinks?

Chain link cufflinks stand out for their two decorative faces — which are often identical in design — as well as the fact they are connected using a short length of chain. They are a looser fitting than other fastenings available and are the most traditionally style of cufflinks.
Variations of chain link cufflinks are available though. For instance, one alternative design is where a small thin rod of metal is used, with the two faces attached loosely at the ends attached with jump rings.

What are locking dual-action cufflinks?

A more contemporary style of the jewellery, dual-action cufflinks are similar in design to the fastening of a wristwatch. The cufflink has a hinge in the middle that allows them to slip into the buttonholes, and clips shut to hold the cuff together.

What are stud or button style cufflinks?

There are no moving parts present on stud or button back cufflinks. Instead, they have a large decorative face attached to a small solid post with a smaller head or backing on the inside.
You need to tilt the smaller head of this type of cufflink and work it through the button holes in order to put them into place. They tend to be secure once in though, and as there are no moving parts that could possibly wear over time, they are a durable option.

A guide to wearing cufflinks

You have a choice between ‘kissing cuffs’ and ‘barrelled cuffs’ when it comes to how you wear cufflinks.

How to wear kissing cuffs

  1. Make sure that the bar of the cufflink (if it has one) is pointing straight down to make it easy to inset.
  2. Pinch the two cuffs when the holes are next to each other.
  3. Simply slip the cufflink into the two holes with the decorative face pointing up.
  4. Twist the small bar back into the horizontal position (if there is one) to lock the cufflinks and stop them from slipping out.
So long as you line up the hole correctly, this technique can also be used on single cuffs as well as double (French) cuffs.

How to wear barrel cuffs

Barrel cuffs is the more casual option of the two techniques. This is due to this method making the cuffs appear thinner, giving the shirt a sportier look. The main difference is rather than pinching the cuffs together to align the holes. Place one cuff on top of the other and line the hole up (so that it would fasten as it would if there were a button attached).
While this is a more contemporary way to wear cufflinks, take note that they work great when you’re wearing slimmer fitting shirts. Personally, we wouldn’t recommend this way for fastening for double cuffs, as it can make them slightly bulky, however, the great thing about style is it’s completely up to you with no right or wrong way to do something!

Deciding when’s best to wear cufflinks

While cufflinks may be more formal jewellery pieces, they can be worn day-to-day if you’d like. More men are becoming style conscious, and enjoy showing off their personal tastes. When it comes to fashion, cufflinks are a great way to do this! With so many styles and colours available, you can change the look of a shirt or entire outfit very easily.

Cufflinks in plain styles are recommended if you’re going to use the jewellery for everyday use though. This is because as they sit on your sleeves all day, the last thing you would want to do is accidently hit your wrist off your desk as you’re typing and knock a small gemstone loose from a pave setting!

There will be a time and a place for showing off your glitzier styles of cufflinks mind. Think birthdays, family or office parties, or anytime that calls for a more formal attire, as these will make for the perfect occasions to show off your most dazzling cufflinks.

Don’t be afraid to break from tradition though. There are no set rules as to when the right time to wear a certain style of cufflink is, so it really is up to you! There are even many novelty themed cufflinks around if you would like to show off a particular interest in something too, like football-themed cufflinks for example.


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