Origin of Cufflinks

Have you ever wondered where cufflinks originated from? Cufflinks have been a staple in men’s fashion for literally hundreds of years, only going out of fashion briefly during the mid-twentieth century. Typically worn for formal or special occasions, cufflinks can also be worn to work or as a part of a man’s every-day wardrobe.

Beginnings

Nearly 800 years ago, a thing known as a cufflink was invented. Prior to it’s invention, tailors only used buttons as a form of decoration. Men kept their clothes together with ribbons, pins, straps and laces. It wasn’t until the 13th century that tailors began using buttons as a means of fastening clothing. During the Renaissance, the “worked”, or stitched, buttonhole was developed and caused even more success for the expanding popularity of the button.

However, it wasn’t until after the Renaissance period, during the 1600s, that ornamented double buttons, linked together by a chain, became popular among Europe’s upper-class. These “sleeve-buttons”, as they were originally called, were especially a must-have in Great Britain.

It wasn’t long before jewelers began to produce these sleeve-buttons in silver and gold. These were available with etched or stamped designs, and often encrusted with some type of precious gem. Royalty began commemorating special occasions, such as weddings, with them. The wearing of cufflinks, therefore, became the mark of a gentleman.

French Cuff Shirt

In the late 17th century, the gaudier but less expensive glass button was invented as an alternative to diamonds. In the 18th century, a new material known as glass paste, which consisted of ground up glass and resembled faceted gems, came into widespread use and became a popular material for covering buttons and cufflinks. This English custom soon spread to France. It wasn’t long before cufflinks became a staple in fashion among French nobility. It wasn’t until the year 1788 when the first known record of the word cufflink appeared.

In 1845, Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Count of Monte-Cristo, was published, in which a description of the French double shirt cuff was laid. Although it has been said that the description of the turned-back sleeves of Dumas’s characters inspired French tailors to begin producing doubled-over cuffs (now known as “French cuffs,”) The National Cuff Link Society claims that there is a chance this is not the shirt’s true origin.

Cufflinks For All Classes

The wearing of cufflinks spread like wildfire during the 19th century. Imitation gems (such as glass paste, crystal and micah- as well as gold-plate and silver-plate- were used by jewelers to make cufflinks which were affordable to the masses. By the late Victorian era, cufflinks were crucial to every gentleman’s wardrobe.

In the 1920s, jewelers came up with an easier way for men to get dressed in the morning with the invention of t-post and flip hinged cufflinks. Snap-together cufflinks followed in the 1930s. Low-end manufacturers pumped out millions of inexpensive cufflinks from the 1930s-1960s.

With the popularity of button-down shirts of the ’60s and ’70s, the demand for cufflinks waned. It wasn’t until the 1980s, and again in recent years, that French cuff shirts have regained popularity. Cufflinks have again returned to popularity, as many business professionals, as well as men who just like to accessorize or make a good impression, are beginning to invest in the fashionable men’s accessory.

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