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The practical challenge of getting your hands through your shirt sleeves without them being excessively wide at the wrists has baffled many a fashion mind. Hence, the development of cufflinks through time is closely related to that of the man’s shirt. Read on to discover how historical trends in clothing have led to contemporary cuff-links.
Although they appeared in the 1600s, cufflinks didn’t become popular until the end of the 18th century. Previous to this, cuffs were simply tied with a ribbon or fitted with a ‘wrist-clasp’. This meant a gilded bronze bangle was sewn into the cuff and snapped together; but it was actually women who used these initially, not men.

With the introduction of the French cuff – where the cuff is double the normal size and folded back on itself – in the mid-17th century, cufflinks moved from being simply practical to a form of personal adornment with designs in decorated in gold, silver and pearl buttons on brass chains.

The industrial revolution in the late 1700s meant cufflinks became available to the masses and were no longer something solely for the upper classes. Greater manufacturing meant a much higher production of reasonably priced styles featuring enamel, low-cost gem stones and even glass. Shirt makers soon caught on and the production of more formal and cufflink-ready shirts increased rapidly.
In the 20th century, cufflinks came in and out of favour with the differing trends of the time. Coco Chanel made fashion jewellery acceptable to wear for both men and women in the 1920s, particularly for casual wear. This meant cufflinks were much more suitable for day-to-day wear and were soon available in every conceivable colour, pattern and style from the original double-panel chain design to the newer swing fastening.

Following the Second World War, the 1950s gentleman had a whole range of luxury accessories as well as his cufflinks – think money clips, cigarette cases and tie pins. A decade later, Carnaby Street dandies became renowned for their eccentric and creative gentlemanly dressing and cufflinks were a distinctive feature of a swinging 60s look.

It was in the 1970s when cufflinks almost disappeared completely. Dominated by the ‘Woodstock generation’ and hippie phenomena, dressing was laid back and relaxed and shirts were mainly manufactured with the cuffs featuring buttons and buttonholes – the style we are most familiar with today.
If it hadn’t have been for the resurgence of formal traditional values in the late ‘80s spurred on by the film Brideshead Revisited, cufflinks may never have experienced a revival. Today, the cufflink is ever present, yet as a more sophisticated part of a man’s wardrobe, mostly associated with formal attire and dressed-up events.
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