Small they may be, cufflinks are hard multi-taskers. They instantly add sophistication to an outfit, they make you look assertive and boost your confidence, and they are a great conversation starter.
Cufflinks are a modern man’s must-have, your coming-of-age when it comes to accessories to create that unexpected, discerning sartorial flair.
Exuding luxury, a refined pair of cufflinks is the perfect way to breathe personality into an understated formal, or indeed casual look. They are the small decorative detail, much like any other piece of jewellery you might wear, that will finish off your attire and draw your attention to details.
Be it adepts of classic menswear or anybody seeking to distinguish themselves through debonaire dressing, it is not hard to see when browsing quickly on Instagram or reading blogs from sartorially-aware men, that cufflinks should form an integral part to a men’s attire.
Read on to find out all there is to know about cufflinks: how they became such respected piece of menswear, when and how to wear them, and discover the emerging brands who are making waves with their cufflinks designs.
Jeya Narrative: "What one accessory should a man who wishes to be discerning in his style own?"
Redki Robki: "An absolute must-have is a perfect fitted shirt with a pair of timeless cufflinks."
Much like any other industry, fashion and style have developed over the past centuries and millennia to bring us the items we know today. It is always fascinating to read than nothing stands in isolation and is merely an evolution of centuries and millennia of habits, usages and adaptation.
The story of cufflinks started in the 13th century. Shirts were originally used as undergarment only, with only the sleeves, very occasionally, daringly allowed to be seen. Those were usually fastened with ribbon, string, lace or pins - long before buttons were invented.
Whilst the Middle Ages were primarily based on utilitarian attire and practicality, the Renaissance brought a very elitist, highly embellished way of dressing with ruffles, laces, opulence and volume aplenty.
Shirt and blouse sleeves were often decorated with additional lace and ruffles and ties were used to fasten them. These were mostly worn by the higher echelons of society, the wealthy aristocracy who dressed excessively and ornately to distinguish themselves from the masses.
The fashion of the 17th century was somewhat more subdued with a slender silhouette and a more functional attire. Cuffs were still tied with a ribbon and later gave way to opulent jewellery buttons.
British King Charles II is thought to be the first Royal to embrace cufflinks, when he wore some at his wedding to Catherine of Braganza on the 20th May 1662.
After that, that new trending cufflinks soon became bespoke, ornamented accessories used (and primarily gifted) to commemorate special events such as royal coronations and weddings. This trend grew even more in the following century when sleeve buttons became even more ornamental, were hand-painted or featured coloured gems. They remained a status symbol for the very wealthy.
It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that cufflinks started becoming widespread and a staples in men’s wardrobes. The development of the tailored suit with its unfastened shirt as well as the industrial revolution (which allowed both mass production and mass delivery) were key in the widespreading of cufflinks, rendering them more available and affordable to the growing middle class and bourgeoisie. The classic French and double cuffs were widely copied and replicated for people loved the romantic appeal of French fallen historic heroes, making cufflinks the staple it now is.
The beginning of the 20th century furthered that trend once more, with Faberge famously creating cufflinks with his own enamels and Art Deco and Art Nouveau inspiring a new wave of intricately decorated cufflinks.
However, cufflinks gradually lost their appeal later in the century as more casual attire and dressing down took to centre stage, restricting them to wedding and formal occasions only. Shirts came with buttons already attached which were more practical, leaving cufflinks for haute couture and luxury labels such as Tiffany’s and Cartier, who ostentatiously incorporated diamonds and other luxury gemstones in their designs.
In the 1950s, cufflinks were popular amongst an array of accessories that men used to sport on their suits - such as tie bar, money clips, cigarette case or watches. But they quickly lost ground again in the 1970s as casual dressing became more popular, before the revival of the French cuffs in the 1990s, which were once again embraced by men and women alike - creating a new androgynous figure of tailored suits and power accessories.
Today, cufflinks still hold a special place in menswear - with their heritage as a luxury item, not quite an everyday accessory, they ooze power and sophistication. From novelty cufflinks (not that we would recommend those), to timeless, elegant and refined designs, mighty cufflinks make a subtle statement about their wearer. Men wear them to complement their jewellery - bracelets and watches or indeed as a replacement and to elevate their dressing.
"What I love about Alice Made This is the perfect balance of luxury and modernism. In particular, a lot of cufflinks that are on the market are either quite gimmicky or old fashioned looking. But with AMT, the story behind each collection and the technique used in manufacturing are most fascinating. What you get with AMT is not just a beautiful product, but a piece of modern design made with innovative engineering and precision – and I love that everything is made in the UK."
Menswear stylist Kenny Ho about Alice Made This
Jewellery for men is no longer stigmatised and is slowly but surely becoming an integral part of a man’s attire. Whilst cufflinks have always been an important part of menswear, they have historically been linked to formalwear. Don’t feel restricted by this old-fashioned misconception, instead, incorporate cufflinks into your daily outfits - whether you are wearing a suit, a blazer or a jumper - and they will quickly become your defining touch of elegance to smarten up any outfit.
Alongside a tuxedo and black bow tie, cufflinks are the epitome of formalwear. For the most formal events, always opt for French cuffs and adorn those with cufflinks that are sleek and have a clean aesthetics. Black tie is the perfect occasion to wear embellished cufflinks or play with texture cufflinks to stand that even more on your morning suit or tuxedo. Make sure to match your metals if wearing a lapel pin or shirt studs.
Wear: We recommend Tom Pigeon’s Béton cufflinks in silver or Redki Robki's rose gold mix and match cufflinks.
Pair with: Wear those with a black silk bow tie and dark grey socks.
[Read our guide to black tie.]
Whether you are a guest, the groom himself or looking for the perfect gift for groomsmen, cufflinks are the perfect accessory to wear to a wedding. Choose cufflinks that complement your suit or attire, preferring refined, minimalist designs. Incidentally, if you make sure that your cufflinks are distinguished and have a story to tell, it would also make a perfect conversation starter to between the wedding reception and the cutting of the cake.
Wear: We recommend Alice Made This' brass Edward cufflinks or Alexander in copper.
Pair with: A bow tie or pocket square that's colour-coordinated to the wedding theme.
[Read our article on how to dress as a wedding guest for the most popular wedding themes.]
Workplaces (and especially corporate environments) have traditionally required you to dress smartly with a suit, leaving little space to express your individuality. Accessories can add to your sharp attire and are the perfect way to add colour and texture. Be it for a job interview, to make a impression at an important meeting or simply for a day when you want to look your best strolling in the office, cufflinks will instantly lift your outfit and give an edgy-yet-professional appearance. As dress codes in the workplace become more casual, cufflinks can also be worn with blazers or even under knitwear.
Still the exception rather than the norm, wearing cufflinks will make you look distinguished, and ooze confidence and authority. Nothing says power dressing quite like a sharp suit, cufflinks and highly polished shoes.
Wear: Go for sleek cufflinks such as Alice Made This’s Edward or Redki Robki’s Minimalist oval cufflinks
Pair with: Smart colourful socks such as houndstooths socks from London Sock Company or pinstripe socks Peper Harrow and a silk tie from Emily Carter
Be it a first date, a romantic impromptu evening or an anniversary, date nights are all about dressing the part and portraying your best self. Wearing cufflinks will show the person sat opposite that you have style and take pride in your appearance. This more casual setting allows you to subtly experiment when it comes to the design of cufflinks.
Wear:Choose Alice Made This' Alexander copper cufflinks or Tom Pigeon’s form segment cufflinks
Pair with: A limited edition Eleonora de Rossi pocket square and burgundy socks from London Sock Company
When you want to look well-dressed in a more casual way, cufflinks can still be incorporated within your attire to add that touch of style and elevate your outfit. A shirt with cufflinks and a blazer is a simple go-to outfit that will never let you down. Focus on texture, with maybe some geometric designs or designs inspired by architecture. Well-fitted clothes and an emphasis on a few well-selected accessories are the ultimate go-tos for an effortless look.
Wear: Pair your wardrobe staples (cufflinks look great on a shirt worn under a jumper) with cufflinks that are a little less formal such as Tom Pigeon’ geometric formica cufflinks or Man Gun Bear's bronze rectangular ones.
Pair with: Red and purple houndstooth socks, and you’ll be good to go.
Jeya Narrative works with brands with a story to tell. Each piece, each accessory adds to your very own style by not only reinforcing your individuality, but also by sharing the story of how a piece has been made, the inspiration behind it and the craft and skills embedded within it. Discover the incredible brands behind our cufflinks.