Wearing jewellery is inherently human, from a medieval king’s crown to a groovy vintage ruby ring, jewellery is a part of history. Knowing how to wear cufflinks is supposedly a dying art. Recently, a friend of mine was gifted a pair of cufflinks. I was shocked to learn that he didn’t know how to wear them. As it turns out, I needn’t have been so shocked, as it turns out many of my friends also don’t know how to wear cufflinks.
This naivety needs to end, and I shall ensure I play my part in educating today’s youth.
Cufflinks are a staple of men’s fashion and they have been since the 1600s. Therefore, every man needs a pair of cufflinks. However, since the decline of everyday formalwear in the last 50 years, it’s really no surprise that young men my age are clueless when it comes to wearing cufflinks.
The History of Cufflinks
The first form of cufflinks came from men seeking something more special than shirt ribbons or ties. Opting for using short chains connected to gold and silver buttons to keep cuffs held together, these stylish gentlemen created the cufflink. Cufflinks became a part of fashion for every stylish gentleman in no time. As the Industrial Revolution was on the rise, it became easy to make lots of affordable cufflinks, and so they became more commonplace with time.
Clothing designers caught on to this quickly, and saw the possibility of significant profit. With this in mind, they designed more and more shirts that could accommodate cufflinks. During the 18th and 19th centuries, gentlemen started wearing cufflinks and shirt studs more often. No longer reserved for black tie events, cufflinks became more suitable to everyday wear for the Victorian gentlemen. By this time, cufflinks had become ornate and intricate pieces of art.
Prepare Your Shirt
The most common shirt cuffs that are worn with cufflinks are called French cuffs. French cuffs are longer than normal cuffs, as they have been designed to be folded back on themselves. French cuffs also don’t have buttons to secure one part of the cuff to the other. Instead of this, there are holes on either side of the cuff, ready for links to be fitted.
When hoping to wear cufflinks, you must first fold the cuffs neatly so they are the correct length. Next, hold both sides of the cuff together. After this, you need to ensure that the holes for the cufflinks are aligned with one another. From here, inserting and securing the cufflinks should be self-explanatory.
Fear not, however, as we will cover the different types of cufflinks and different ways in which they can be affixed. Let’s get started.
Knowing how to wear cufflinks that have a bullet back is the first to note, as bullet back cufflinks – sometimes referred to as swivel bar cufflinks – are one of the most popular styles available. In a bullet back cufflink, the main design of the link features at one end, and at the other end is a ‘bullet’ shaped bar that rotates to keep the link in place.
When fitting these cufflinks, ensure that the design is on the side of your cuff that will face outwards, ensuring it can be most effectively admired. Fold the bullet at the opposite end of the link so you can push the bar of the cufflink through the holes in your shirt. Once the cufflink is in place and you’re happy with it, fold the bullet back into place in order to prevent it from falling out. Hey presto – you’re done!
Chain Link Cufflinks
More commonly found in antique examples of cufflinks, the chain link cufflink creates a very refined and distinguished look. Add chain link cufflinks to your outfit to elevate your look to another level. Typically, chain link cufflinks feature identical designs on either end of the cuff.
Fitting the chain link cuff is much the same as the fixed back cufflink. Manoeuvre one end of the cufflinks through the holes in your shirt cuff until they sit comfortably. As many of the chain link cufflinks feature identical designs at either end, it thankfully doesn’t matter which way around you put them. The design is well displayed with chain link cufflinks, and occasionally hints of the chain become visible. The hints of chain highlight the antique style, making these examples very desirable.
Fixed Back Cufflinks
A fixed back cufflink has one end that’s larger – featuring the design – and one end that is smaller – the fixed back. The fixed back is named so because it doesn’t need to be rotated to be worn.
Simply put the smaller side of the cufflink through the holes in your shirt, ensuring to keep the design facing upwards. The fixed back may be a rounded oval or sphere shape, or it equally may be a longer, more rectangular shape. If you have difficulty trying to fit your fixed back cufflink, try pushing one side of the back through each hole separately, and then – with some careful manoeuvring – you should find it easy enough to get the other side through also.
Double designs feature again on reversible cufflinks. Connected by a solid bar, they manage to keep designs visible from all angles – great value for money. A little more manipulating and manoeuvring is required as the designs are generally the same on either side, making them a little difficult to get through the cuff holes.
With some elbow grease, you’ll get the links very firmly in the cuffs. The big benefit of these styles is that – once they are in – they are very secure, and not likely to come loose or need any further readjustment. This style was very popular in the Victorian period, but it has endured as a common style through the last couple of decades.
When to Wear Cufflinks
For everyday use, we would recommend a plain style of cufflink, as they sit on the cuffs all day, and it would be too easy to knock a small gemstone loose from a pave setting. Gold cufflinks are very popular at the moment, and we have a lot of examples that feature etched designs that would be very well suited to everyday wear. Onyx, enamel, and stones like turquoise and mother of pearl are good choices for everyday cufflinks, as they are less fragile than gemstones.
Novelty & Formal Cufflinks
Some events, however, do require you to bring out your finest examples of cufflinks. Events such as weddings, business events, and black tie events all require a significant degree of dress-up. For black tie events, novelty cufflinks are off the table. Stylish, formal cufflinks are a must. This is the time to wear gemstone cufflinks, as they are well-suited to a formal event. Weddings, however, are perfect for novelty cufflinks. A family event like a wedding is the time to show your personality with a creative flair of accessorising.
Business events are the in between for cufflink styles. The event itself dictates whether or not it is acceptable to wear formal cufflinks or informal, more playful ones. If the event in question is an in-company Christmas party, then feel free to don the most festive cufflinks imaginable. If, however, the event is a training course, or any kind of event that forces you to be around people you don’t work with day-to-day, it’s sensible to play it safe and stick with formal cufflinks.
Wearing cufflinks has been popular at formal events for centuries, and it’s a tradition that’s worth upholding. If you know someone whom you suspect might not know how their cufflinks should be included in their wardrobe, maybe send them a hint.
Bethany Massey – Digital Assistant (Content Creator)
Having graduated university with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing Bethany then joined the AC Silver team as a content creator. Bethany spends her days writing content for the AC Silver blog and other luxury goods/antique blogs.