The History of the Cufflink
Cufflinks have a long and interesting history and like many fashion trends were first worn by women. Known as “wrist clasp” and made from gilded bronze Anglo Saxon ladies wore them to secure the cuffs of long sleeve garments. So the ladies can take the credit for starting a trend which in later centuries has come to embody style.
The history of the cufflink is inextricable from the history of the shirt; traditionally the shirt was considered an undergarment, and so to show a shirtsleeve would be considered improper!! But over time this attitude changed, and there developed a need to fasten shirt cuffs.
Although they appeared in the 1600s, cufflinks didn’t become popular until the end of the 18th century. Previous to this, cuffs were simply tied with a ribbon or fitted with a ‘wrist-clasp’. This meant a gilded bronze bangle was sewn into the cuff and snapped together.
With the introduction of the French cuff, in the mid 1600’s, where the cuff is double the normal size and folded back on itself, the cufflink moved from the realm of practicality to personal adornment, as royalty commonly wore these decorated cuff fasteners, with designs in decorated in gold, silver and pearl buttons on brass chains.
By the late 1700’s the middle classes and tradesmen had also joined in. Cheaper manufacturing costs during the Industrial Revolution made cufflinks affordable to all and by the 1840’s cufflinks were usually found in the form of gold, silver, or pearl buttons held together by a brass chain.
The Roaring 20’s saw the development of different cufflink styles designed to make it easy to insert and remove. In the 1950s, the "stirrup" link enjoyed some popularity - a curved bar encompassing the cuff from one side to the other. Later, the solid T-bar link was devised which is still the most popular design today.
Since their inception, cufflinks have been associated with luxury. With the royalty and the aristocracy of the 16th century, cufflinks were almost always commemorating special events. In fact, gentlemen of the time wouldn’t purchase cufflinks on their own – they would only add to their collection through gifts.
Cufflinks afford a man or lady the opportunity to truly make a suit or shirt their own. Given the incredibly wide range of colors and styles today’s cuff links are available in, it’s no surprise that their popularity is higher than ever. The materials and style may have changed, but the message is still clear. From the earliest days of glass buttons and gold chains, the cufflink meant high society. The cufflink is versatile and functional, but an undeniable sign of a discerning gentleman or lady, adding style to any outfit.