What are cufflinks? A relic of a lost age of style or something for only the richest of the rich? Actually, they’re just a great style accessory for a man who has an eye for detail and wants to stand out to people who also have that eye. They are a great way to put a cherry on top of your personal style and really allow you to add that extra level of personality.
Every man should have at least a couple of pairs of cufflinks in their wardrobe. Even if you only ever wear them once or twice a year, they just send the right message at a certain occasion, whether you want to stand out or blend in. You also don’t have to be afraid to wear them almost every day if you choose. It’s totally up to you how much effort and panache you want to put into your outfit.
What Actually Are Cufflinks?
Cufflinks are a small device used to fasten your shirt cuffs together. They have the same purpose as buttons; they just aren’t attached to the shirt at all. Cufflinks have been used for over 400 years, starting in Europe as a functional and fashionable statement. They are much more stylish than buttons as each day you can change them to match your shirt. And you can match different cufflinks with the same shirt on different occasions.
Because they are not attached to the shirt already, you have to have the correct type of shirt to actually use cufflinks. The most common type of shirt used has French cuffs, where the cuffs are doubled back over one another, creating almost four layers of cuffs.
There is also the less common but equally viable single cuff shirts. These are a little sleeker and less bulky than French cuffs.
And in today’s more flexible world, you can even wear them with barrel cuff shirts, the type you usually buy with buttons pre-sewn on them. Tailors can remove these buttons so they are capable of being worn with cufflinks. This is rare, but not unacceptable.
Types of Cufflinks
As with any style accessory, there are many forms and variations that cufflinks come in. It’s totally a matter of preference which ones you will choose for the day. The most common these days are bullet back or whale back cufflinks. These both have a hinge of sorts that allow you to insert the pin more easily and adjust the hinge once through the cuff holes to secure the links.
There are also chain link cufflinks. These are the original style of cufflinks and have designs on both sides of the cuff. The chain between the cufflinks allows for looser cuffs. Just thread one link through both ends of the cuff and leave the other on the outside and you’re done.
Stud and ball return cufflinks have no moving parts. Just one smaller end to go on the bottom of the cuff and one larger end to display. These can be considered higher end as they are usually more durable and can have nicer adornments on both sides of the cuff.
There are also fabric and silk knot and locking cufflinks. I’m not going to go into detail on all of these as you will know when you see them if their style is for you. And that’s what you must always remember when choosing a style, it’s about your preference.
There are dozens and dozens of materials cufflinks can be made of. From gold to silver to diamond to silk, there are too many to cover here. Just remember that you are always trying to pair the look of the cufflink with your outfit, so that matters more than the material they are made of. Some people have cufflinks as family heirlooms, and that is actually pretty cool, but not necessary to consider when buying cufflinks. Just choose what you like and can afford.
When and How to Wear Cufflinks
Some people are stricter and more proper when determining when and how you should wear cufflinks. But in today’s less strict (and much better) fashion world, there are fewer rigid guidelines to follow.
The first and only rigid rule when wearing cufflinks is proper application. If your cufflinks aren’t chain style, meaning they only have one specific side to display, you always want that side to be facing the same way as the top of your hand. You want your cufflinks to face outward when your hands are at your sides. There are no exceptions to this because otherwise, people wouldn’t be able to see them, and that is the whole point.
Some people think that you should only wear cufflinks to formal business and social events, like important meetings or weddings or fancy dinner parties. That simply isn’t true anymore. You can wear them every day in the office if you so please. You can wear them on dates with a sport jacket. If cufflinks are supposed to be a personalized style statement, why should you have to follow any rules that limit your personal style preferences?
Cufflink Style Guidelines
There used to be unwritten rules like gold cufflinks for day and silver for night. Those are thankfully out the window now, especially since silver is the safest choice for almost all occasions. One exception a lot of people still follow is at a black and white, tuxedo type of event. Most men will wear gold or black cufflinks or some combination of those two. You by no means have to do this, just most men do.
The general and safest rule when picking cufflinks is to match them to your shirt, not your jacket. You want a complimentary contrast, as much of an oxymoron as that is, to any colors or patterns in your shirt. Just like picking a tie. But you don’t have to match cufflinks to only your shirt.
You can match them to your tie or certain color in your tie. You can match them to your watch or a ring or a tie clip. You can match them to your shoes. (Hint: brown cufflinks can look really nice with brown shoes.) You can even up your game and match them to your socks. Remember that cufflinks are that extra detail setting your outfit apart. So, use that to match them to other details in your ensemble. It shows a great eye on your part and a willingness to go the extra step in your appearance. This will get noticed by the keen observer.
There also novelty types of cufflinks with a certain meaningful flair like cards, or a family sigil, or type of animal or whatever. These can be a great conversation starter in the right circumstances.
Link It All Together
The most important thing to remember is that cufflinks are a detail that state something about yourself, about your personality, about your eye for the little things. This can mean you only want to show them at formal occasions, or you want to personalize down to the last detail each and every day. Cufflinks are such great way to stand out from most who won’t take the time to choose or match or even wear them. They’re just a wonderful little detail to show who you are to those who care enough to notice.