The need for a solution to the challenge of getting one’s hand through shirt sleeves without the cuffs being excessively wide gave way to the development of various types of cufflinks we see today.


History of Cufflink


Cufflinks

As is the case with a lot of fashionable revolutions, when people want to know where did cufflinks originate, they look no further than France. A question we’re commonly asked is when did people start wearing cufflinks. This question is a little complicated, as the earliest forms of cufflinks are not what we envision today when discussing the essential accessory.


Prior to the 17th century, a cufflink referred simply to a ribbon that tied the cuff. However, the 1600’s saw the introduction of the French cuff, popular among royals for the status it suggested, rather than for its functionality.


Whilst cufflinks were previously made of silver, gold and pearl, at the end of the 19th Century Edward VII popularised the colourful Fabergé style made with enamel. The introduction of these saw cufflinks become a fashion accessory that was finally acceptable for men.


The next century saw the decorative cufflink embraced by the upper classes, where the adorning of them became a characteristic mark of a true gentleman.


The industrial revolution in the late 18th Century gave way for cheaper enamelled and glass cufflinks to be manufactured, making the cufflink accessible to lower classes.


Gatsby’s Roaring 20s


As a lover of the Great Gatsby, it is no surprise to me that the 1920s saw the popularity of the cufflink soar. Well known as the decade where there was no such thing as over-extravagance, gemstone adorned design became all the rage. The debonair gentlemen of the 1920s definitely knew how to wear cufflinks.


Coco Chanel rose to fame in the 1920s and it was her influence that made fashion jewellery more desirable than ever. Cufflinks began appearing in every colour, pattern and shape imaginable.


History of cufflinks

Post-World Wars


The evolution of the man’s shirt saw the popularity of the cufflink dip between the 1930s and 1950s, with the go-to shirt choice now being one with unstarched cuffs secured with a simple button.


However, the Post-WW2 ‘gentleman’ was one who invested in a number of accessories; cufflinks being just one of them. The decades (minus the 1970s*) that followed saw the cufflink cement itself as one of the most popular pieces of men’s jewellery.

*Unsurprisingly, the 70s man was not one that wore cufflinks. This Woodstock generation instead had many heirloom cufflink types reworked into earrings instead.


Modern Cufflinks

British Government, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The Modern Gentleman


Today’s cufflinks are made from a variety of materials, and this makes them a piece of jewellery accessible for everyone. For many, a cufflink is an accessory to be worn on a special occasion and is looked upon as a sign of sophistication. However for ‘suits’ or city workers the cufflink is a staple of their everyday wardrobe. Cufflinks are therefore an excellent present to buy for your loved ones and have become a timeless piece of men’s jewellery that can be passed down through generations.


The Background of the Cufflink


As is the case with lots of jewellery and accessory sub-categories, answering the question ‘who invented the cufflink’ is not as simple as it may seem. People started wearing cufflinks in the 1600s, and so naming a single creator is impossible. What we do know is that cufflinks have evolved alongside the concept of a shirt, as you might expect. Shirts have been worn in some form since the beginning of fabric weaving, more than 7,000 years ago.


With the passage of time, shirts were designed to have extended sleeves and collar sections in order to protect the skin around the wrists and neck from heavy-duty fabrics used to make coats and jackets. Naturally, these exposed areas of shirt became sites to accessorise, and thus, cufflinks were created.


With the passage of time, shirts were designed to have extended sleeves and collar sections in order to protect the skin around the wrists and neck from heavy-duty fabrics used to make coats and jackets. Naturally, these exposed areas of shirt became sites to accessorise, and thus, cufflinks were created.


History of the Cufflink

Image courtesy of Rene Asmussen on Pexels, CC BY CC0 1.0


Cufflink HistoryImage courtesy of Nick Karvounis on Unsplash, CC BY CC0 1.0

The industrial revolution ignited change all throughout a lot of the Western world, including a lot of aspects of men’s fashion. Mass production was a big benefit of the industrial revolution, making it possible for cufflinks to be available at every price level. Basic metals and leathers were used for more affordable cufflinks, while metals like gold and platinum and precious gemstones were used on more luxurious cufflinks.


Because of this gradual evolution of the design, it’s difficult to answer the question what do cufflinks symbolise. Technically, they do not have a specific symbolism attached to them, but they have come to be connected to wealth and status to varying degrees. Wearing cufflinks is largely reserved for those who work in highly formal environments as well as anyone attending a formal party. Cufflinks are most closely symbols of status in the same way that signet rings and other items of men’s jewellery are regarded.


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Written by

Katharine Biggs

Katharine joined AC Silver as part of the retail team, and almost immediately became actively involved in the numerous internet media used to support sales. Having a degree in Psychology, Katharine brings a young and fresh approach to the business and this is reflected in her blog writing style.