Cufflinks have become as decorative as they are practical. Used to connect the sides of a shirt cuff, they may also include portrait miniatures, faceted gems, or mother of pearl. They grew in popularity as wrist ruffles came out of fashion in the late 18th century and the wearing of them de rigeur by the beginning of the 19th century.
The first cufflinks appeared in the 17th century with the development of the men’s shirt, but did not become popular and widely worn until the end of the 18th century. Before cufflinks, men’s shirt sleeves were often fastened by decorative ribbons. The French cuff shirt with a folded double cuff came into fashion in the early 20th century, when cufflinks became an essential part of a man’s wardrobe. Cufflinks can be neutral and simple in style, rendered in a plain gold or silver with a simple engraving, or can be jewelled with a detailed design. A pair of sapphire and diamond cufflinks can elevate a simple black suit, while a pair of bejewelled Victorian cufflinks make the perfect accessory to a velvet dinner jacket.
Among the most famous collectors of cufflinks was Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II, who amassed an enormous collection of cufflinks, mainly by Fabergé. The Tsar wore cufflinks on a single cuff shirt, which was popular in the latter half of the 19th century. During the 1970s, shirts with button cuffs became popular, but during the 1980s, cufflinks experienced a revival as a way for a man to elevate any suit he wore.
Today, cufflinks and dress sets are a vital part of any man’s wardrobe. Not just for formal events, cufflinks are a perfect way to add both personal touch and character to a suit. While always seen on the red carpet, cufflinks are just as appropriate at a dinner party or in the boardroom.
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