Jan 19 ,2015
Published in Style guides


No well-dressed man would be seen without a pair of cufflinks these days. The epitome of sophistication, they’ve also encouraged a revival in the ‘French’ cuff for shirt designers, as well as a flurry of innovative and individualistic design concepts in jewellery making. But cufflinks go much further back than you might expect, and are an exceptional social indicator and a barometer of men’s fashions over the ages.

The first (albeit somewhat tentative) reports of the concept of cufflinks goes back to Ancient Egypt. However, in the UK they first made their appearance as an item of men’s adornment by a Member of Parliament in 1788 – a period well known for its foppish style. After the start of the Industrial Revolution cufflinks became increasingly popular, conveying status, wealth and breeding. So while they may have been aspirational for the middle classes, they were almost exclusively the preserve of the upper classes.

At the turn of the 20th century cufflinks became associated with social progression and affluence. And as we move forward into the 21st century they have become an important part of our fashion. Most men wear cufflinks maybe once or twice per year, but as the fashion world has embraced cufflinks in business and less formal social environments, those ‘special occasions’ are becoming more frequent and cufflinks are now much more of an everyday item for both men and women.

In the 1970s, French cuffs shirts specifically designed to take cufflinks were replaced by shirts that used button closures instead. But the cufflinks revival during the 1990s has now led to a shift back towards French cuffs, in no small part thanks to the inspiration of a new generation of clothes designers who recognise the importance of embellishments such as cufflinks. They’ve become fashionable and fun, and have even become a cross-gender item worn by women as well as men.

Today, the cufflink has become not only a fashion accessory in the business world, but as a final flourish to more ‘on-trend’ outfits, spawning a new generation of designs, concepts and styles.


Despite the resurgence in interest and the more practical aspects as well as the sheer aesthetics of an elegant pair of cufflinks, some men still don’t know how to incorporate cufflinks into their wardrobe.

In fact, they’re elegantly simple, and very easy to use. Cufflinks replace shirt buttons on French cuff shirts, and perform the same role as buttons by fastening the cuffs together. However, they also add a decorative flourish to the look, as well as having a sublimely practical nature.

Cufflinks should enhance an outfit, but they should never take centre stage and detract from any other items such as premium quality watches or even the suit or shirt itself. They should complement, not overwhelm. The sheer variety available also means that they can be worn in less formal surroundings, making them suitable for everyday wear, rather than being reserved for special or formal occasions.

Bullet back closure
These are the most common style, and are the easiest to use as well. The cufflink has a bullet-shaped, pivoting capsule secured between two static posts. To thread it through the buttonholes of a French cuff the central capsule is aligned with the posts, and then flipped to a horizontal position to secure the cufflink to the shirt.

Whale back closure
Although the mechanism of the Whale Back is the same as a Bullet back, this design has a straight post combined with a flat, solid ‘whale tail’ that flips flat to insert, and then back in place to secure the cuff.

Wraparound closure
These unusual cufflinks are perhaps less well known and are predominantly chain, mesh or leather that wraps around the cuff, rather than threading through it.


The button or barrel cuff

This is the traditional cuff and is probably the design that most people are familiar with, as it is used in the design of most shop-bought shirts. It’s functional, simple and the corners of the cuff are usually square or angled slightly. Dress shirts for more formal occasions may have more than one button.

Some button-cuffed shirts are convertible and have both a button and two holes. So while they can be used with the standard button closure, they can also be converted to take a cufflink by removing the button to become a single cuff worn with cufflinks.


The French or double cuff

The French cuff is the classic cuff for a dress shirt and most often worn with cufflinks of various types. The cuff is folded back on itself (hence the Double) with holes to allow a cufflink to be used to fasten them together, instead of buttons. They suit the use of quality cufflinks for more formal business environments or special occasions. The correct way to wear a French cuff is with a quarter inch of shirt cuff protruding from underneath the jacket sleeve.

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