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Cufflinks: Keeping it Together Since the 1600s

In men’s fashion, many things move in cycles. Lapels for example, tend to gradually change from broad to skinny and back every few decades. Other sartorial elements of men’s clothing are tried once and then left in their time. The puffy collars of the 16th and 17th centuries shouldn’t expect a reprisal and would be considered a fashion crime if worn on the streets today.

In addition to the cyclical elements, and one-off experiments, there are a handful of clothing and accessory concepts that seemingly never die. Thong sandals have existed for thousands of years in continued popularity in the east (and sometimes west). The tuxedo has existed in its current iteration since the late 19th century and while its record is impressive, an element of the modern tuxedo existed for more than 300 years prior - the cufflink.

The historical record traces the first cufflinks back to the early 1600s; they were not a part of common dress, however, until two centuries later. At the dawn of the 18th century, men wore frilly sleeves and collars, tied by ribbon or buttoned in some cases. As fabric processes continued to get better, it was possible to make frilly cuffs that could hold cufflinks but they still had yet to become a household item.

When the 1800s arrived, men’s clothing became very conservative, more form fitting, and thick, starched elements became a mainstay of men’s dress. Cuffs were large and difficult to fit buttons on, but thanks to more precise tailoring, holes for cufflinks were on most shirts by that point. Since most men at this time owned suits, and many wore them daily, cufflinks became a staple of men’s dress, propelling their detailing and variety higher and higher.

Today, the cufflink survives on French cuff and tuxedo shirts. The modern cufflink is used to convey personality, social status or adherence to formal dress. Studs and cuffs are one of the few places in formalwear where men can express their sartorial knowledge, leading many who dress well to amass a collection of said items. Whether finding their place on a tuxedo for prom or as a gift for the groomsmen, a good cufflink is always appreciated. 

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