From function to fashion, a pair of cufflinks has become a symbol of masculine formal attire. In honour of Father’s Day and all the fathers out there, we are sharing the history of these indispensable pieces!
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The fate of jewels and accessories has always been inextricably linked to the evolution of fashion. This is certainly true of cufflinks, whose invention coincides with the rise of the French cuff in men’s dress.
It is thought that French tailors of the mid-19th century were inspired by the popular novel Three Musketeers, in which its author Alexandre Dumas detailed the folded-back sleeves of the royal guard. Whether inspired by the novel or merely coinciding with, it is clear that these cuffs would take marathon a simple button to fasten. The modern double-cuff and cufflinks’ style of dress was born.
Since the late 18th century, thin ribbon or string has been used to hold sleeves closed, but the cufflink also gave men of style an opportunity for display.
For centuries men had worn a variety of brooches, chains and jewels, but by the 1900 a signet ring and a pair of cufflinks were thought to be the only acceptable items of flair for the gentleman and they remain the only real way to give formal attire an individual slant.
It is no surprise then that there is such an enormous the design offer to suit every taste or every occasion : from bars, knots, sphere, animals, insignias, double- or single-sided.
The subjects and style also changed with fashion. Late Victorian and Edwardian cufflinks are wonderfully evocative of that period, whether plain gold or enameled with depictions of game birds or the “four vices” of this time : gambling, drinking, sporting subjects and women :
Early 20th century cufflinks reflect a glitzier sensibility, with the great jewellery house from Cartier to Fabergé producing engraved and enameled examples incorporating rose gold as well as geometric, clean-lined pieces typical of Art Deco. Some of the most popular design are still in production, such as the Cartier stirrup cufflink with folding ring terminal or the reeded batons of Van Cleef & Arpels with a plain or gemset central band.
We are also seeing a resurgence of interest in mid-20th century links, often more sculptural in look and encrusted with gemstone and abstract shapes.
With this diversification, cufflinks have become more and more common, both outside a formal setting for everyday wear and as a staple of black tie dress. It is also seen as something of a rite of passage for a young man to receive a pair of cufflinks on becoming 18 or 21, to join centuries-old tradition of masculine display and elegance.
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