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Are cufflinks still a thing? Yes — this is how these tiny accessories can complete the perfect look

Are cufflinks high class or a thing of the past?

Cufflinks on display
Nate Johnston / Unsplash

A man’s suit has a collection of intricately designed parts that make up the whole of an elegant style projecting power, authority, grace, and focus. From the message your tie color sends to the details of the lapels, the specifics of your suit can tell others things about you that you don’t even intend to display. When a man wears cufflinks, he projects to others that he tends to finish something and has attention to detail.

But what are cufflinks? How do you wear them? And are they still relevant in our world, rapidly barrelling toward the more casual side of men’s style? Here is all you need to know about men’s cufflinks and how they can elevate your style.

Camera cufflinks
Yaya the Creator / Unsplash

What are cufflinks?

As early as the 1200s, men’s shirt cuffs were held together by ribbon (if you were rich), string (if you were an everyman), or nothing (if you were poor). It wasn’t until the 1800s that the stitched buttonholes were developed, and clothiers and jewelry makers decided to find more elegant ways to fasten them. The result was the creation of the first cufflinks, two ornaments connected by a chain. They were further popularized by King Charles II when he began wearing them regularly, giving the jewelry more credibility because everyone wanted to dress like a royal.

A hundred years later, royals and aristocrats alike wore cufflinks to celebrate special occasions and were gifted to commemorate accomplishments. These created collections of cufflinks that men would amass over time and never be in a situation where they didn’t have the perfect set for any occasion. Since then, we have seen the rise of cufflinks as the everyday wear of Mad Men everywhere, to the development of the sewn buttons, which have relegated the cufflink back to special occasion wear. While the world gets increasingly casual, the cufflink is still the sign of elegance and sophistication men look for when dressing to impress.

Man fixing his cufflink
Jonathan Francisca / Unsplash

How to put on cufflinks

One of the most common mistakes when men wear cufflinks for the first time is they apply them to their shirts in the same way they wear the sewn-on buttons. They line up the holes of their cuffs in a wrapping style and use the cufflinks instead of the button. Putting on cufflinks is one of the easiest things you will do when getting dressed in a suit, as long as you know how to do it properly. Here are the steps to making sure you look your best while wearing cufflinks for men. 

  1. Get the right shirt. This may sound ridiculous, but if you want to wear a special piece of jewelry for a special occasion, you will need to get the right shirt to accommodate it. While you may think it is self-explanatory, many guys don’t think about the shirt when they get cufflinks. You must select a French Cuff dress shirt — the name of a dress shirt that doesn’t have sewn-on buttons if you want to wear cufflinks. 
  2. Pinch the edges together. Instead of wrapping the cuffs around the wrist like a regular dress shirt, these cuffs will come together side-to-side to line the sewn holes. 
  3. Enter the cufflink through the hole so the jewel or stone rests on the outside of the wrist (when you put your arms to the side, the cufflink should be on the backside of the wrist with the jewel facing away from the body). Open the “T” end to hold it in place and commence looking dapper. The sleeve of your suit coat should rest just above the cufflink, showing off your jewelry. 
Man in suit, cufflinks, watch, and gloves
Joshua Reddekopp / Unsplash

How to wear cufflinks

Styling cufflinks comes down to knowing the room. When to wear them and what to wear them with will be determined by a few other factors.

The first is the event. You should never wear cufflinks without a jacket over the shirt. So, the event needs to be one that requires a tuxedo or suit. A blazer or sportcoat can work as well, but you will be elevating the style with the cufflink, so it should be the kind of event that supports that.

The second factor is what else you are wearing with them. For instance, just like you want to match the leathers you wear (shoes, belt, and watch band), you must match your metals. If you are wearing a silver cufflink, you want to ensure the watch bracelet and belt buckle must also be silver. Same with gold.

Finally, the most important thing with the cufflink is to have fun. These pieces of jewelry are specifically designed to allow you to express yourself. While your suit may be traditional, your tux may be stuffy, or your event may be a little on the conservative side, feel free to allow your cufflink to speak for you. There are dozens of styles and types to choose from, so you can always find one that can represent you exactly how you want.

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Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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