The History of Cufflinks
The cufflink has been a clothing accessory for several hundred years. It has come in and out of fashion frequently as trends shift back and forth between function and accessorizing. Over the years several different types of cufflinks have been developed. Before we look at those, let’s take a quick trip through the history of the cufflink.
The Beginning – 1600’s
The cufflink came into being as a result of clothing designs in the 17th century. Changes from the Renaissance-style decorative lacy cuff eventually morphed into practical designs. At the time, ribbons were used to tie cuffs and this status symbol move came from noblemen. This trend was soon dropped by late in the century. The ribbons were replaced by buttons that contains jewels. They were known as Sleeve Buttons. The attractive and practical design made them far more popular than any other cuff decoration or accessory that had been used to this point.
The Royal Age – 1700’s
Sleeve Buttons evolved during the time of King George and as a result became more ornate. An example of this was the popular style that featured a miniature painting on the underside of a small piece of quartz or glass. This was then attached to the cuff in such a manner that it held both ends together. Due to the expense of producing these tiny artworks of fashion, they remained mostly worn by the elite classes.
The Industrial Revolution – Early 1800’s
The combination of the reign of Queen Victoria and the eventual end of the Industrial Revolution saw another trend develop. It was that of the middle class who had chosen cuff links as a fashion accessory. However, since they were not able to afford the stylings that had been previously worn by royalty, replicas became the fashionable substitute. Fake diamonds, rhinestones and pastes were the common materials that appeared as the ‘jewel’ in the cufflinks of the day. Also, gold was substituted by copper and zinc alloys with cut steel replacing silver.
New Clothing Trends – Mid 1800’s
It was in 1840 when clothing styles once again shifted the course of cufflink history. The French – or double – cuff shirt sleeve was developed and thanks to the Three Musketeers who appeared in a publication by Alexander Dumas, the turned-back sleeve design took hold. European clothing designers took note and began modifications on the single cuff link-holed shirt turning that fashion icon into another one.
Mass Production – Late 1800’s
To date, cufflinks were made by hand. In 1882 inventor George Krementz took the design of a Civil War cartridge shell and created an incredible machine. The apparatus was designed to mass produce Sleeve Buttons and cufflinks. The goal was to make them affordable for everyone to enjoy, wear and otherwise add to their wardrobe. The success of this invention put cufflinks on the sleeves of more than just the wealthy or middle class and created a common fashion accessory anyone could own.
Enamels Spark Trend – Early 1900’s
Thanks to the Art Deco period, enamels became a widely used decorative art form. It was early in the 20th century when the perfected art of using enamels was mass produced and filling the marketplace. The ones produced by Faberge in particular, were known for having a gem-like brilliance. This saw more cufflink designers enter the arena including Cartier and Tiffany’s. All said to have been influenced by the Art Nouveau/Cubism period.
More Design Development – Mid 1900’s
The Boyer Company changes cufflinks forever in 1924. That was when they created a system of fastening cufflinks that is still the most common fastener to this day. The design employed a tilting stick situated between a double stem which is fixed to the base.
Shirts Evolve Further – Late 1900’s
Built-in buttons on shirts that came out in the 1970’s virtually killed off the cufflink. The built-in button design replaced the need for any other kind of fastener. As it turns out, the haute couture ignored this fashion trend by keeping cufflinks in their wardrobe. By the 1990’s the French cuff shirt returned into fashion and along with it came cufflinks. Only this time around the interest captured all ages and brands such as Gucci and Paul Smith introduce new cufflink styles. It was at this time when cufflinks were now considered a ‘must-have’ fashion accessory for both men’s and women’s styles.
Today – The 2000’s
Cufflinks are now common fashion accessories for both men and women. There are various designs and styles also available allowing for individual taste to be reflected in cufflink choice. They also continue to be affordable so that anyone can express themselves with the right combination of shirt and cufflink.