Despite appearing as early as the 1600’s, cufflinks would not become a truly common accessory until the mid-1800’s.
Before the 17th century, early developments of what is now known as the cufflinks were evident. However, these primitive equivalents were usually a simple ribbon tie that ensured the cuffs of undergarments stayed together. By the mid-1600’s, these ribbon ties moved from practical to a style accessory usually worn by the upper class and royalty. These fasteners were adorned with different decorations and the more extravagant the better.
By the late 1700’s, these cuffs have made their way across the entire class spectrum and were no longer considered an accessory for the wealthy only. Tradesman would even wear these fasteners, although this was still mainly for practical purposes and was not adorned with excessive decoration like the upper class wearers.
It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that the first signs of the modern cufflink became visible. Gemstone cufflinks and Fabergé cufflinks were worn as fashion accessories and were one of the only pieces of jewellery that were considered acceptable for men to wear. Because of this, various styles of cufflink entered the market.
When the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, the development of metal electroplating gave almost everyone access to cufflinks of varying styles and materials.
By the 1920’s, the cufflink was at the height of its popularity and style variation. Businesses would often use cufflinks as an incentive for prospective clients and employees, such were their demand and reputation.
It was around the middle of the 20th century that the variation of cufflink styles reached its peak. The ‘stirrup’ link was an immensely popular cufflink style. These uniquely styled cufflinks featured a raised, curved bar that connected one side of the cuff to the other.
By the 1960’s the T-bar cufflink was created, which is still one of the most common styles of cufflink in today’s market. This style features a bar that can be moved from a vertical position when being adorned, to a horizontal position to lock into place.
In today’s market, there are at least eight different styles of cufflinks, all of which are inspired from certain points in the accessories history and adapted to the modern day. These include the Stud Cufflink, Chain Link Cufflink, Whale Back Cufflink, Ball Return Cufflink, Bullet Back Cufflink, Fabric Cufflink, Silk Knot Cufflink and the Locking Cufflink. While all of these variations essentially perform the same task, they are all aesthetically unique and can vary in price enormously.
For example, the Silk Knot Cufflink, which is almost a re-envisioning of 1600’s style ribbon link, is the most affordable cufflink on the market today. However, their material makes them far less durable than metallic equivalents and do not hold the formal reputation of other styles of cufflink.
In contrast, Stud or Button Cufflinks are generally considered the most secure and durable cufflink because of their immovable parts. However, this does present an issue when fastening. This style is associated with the more formal event.