Gentlemen, when dressing up for a formal event or a day at the office, what articles of clothing do you use? Chances are you use a shirt with a collar and on your sleeves you have cuffs. Do you use anything to close the cuffs? Around the 17th Century men wanted a way to hold their cuffs together and the world was introduced to the cufflink.
Prior to cufflinks men would tie a ribbon through the holes at their wrists to hold their cuffs together. Eventually they would
move to buttons, metal chains and finally to the cufflinks we know today. During the 17th and 18th Centuries, sleeve buttons or cufflinks became a symbol of wealth. Wealthy men would show their status and wealth by wearing shirts with collars and cuffs. This gave the impression that they owned enough shirts to wear more than one a day, thus displaying their wealth. Working class men however only owned one or two shirts and to supplement that fact would wear detachable collars and cuffs. The collars and cuffs for both sets of gentlemen would have been starched and stiff.
Manufacturers started to make items that could easily pass through starched collars and cuffs; usually a metal chain or link fastener. It is from this that we get the term cuff link. During the 19th Century, as more men started to wear cufflinks for everyday use, the price came down and cufflinks became affordable to the everyday gentlemen or businessman. In 1906, George Krementz of Newark, New Jersey patented his design for improvements on the cuff button that helped bring the price of cufflinks down. He claimed that with the use of his invention the cuff button would be strong, reliable and secure.
Cufflinks were made with a variety of different materials. These included fabric, precious metals, jewels and glass. As a sign of grief, men would place the hair of a loved one under the glass of their cufflink. Women also had cufflinks, and while they used the same materials were much more extravagant. Cufflinks also contained designs that were painted or pressed on the cufflink. The cufflinks we have in our collection at the High Plains Museum are made from metal and contain a stone or a design.
There are two styles to wearing cufflinks. The first is the Single or Barrel Cuff, is what is seen on most shirts and used for every day wear. The second is the French Cuff and this was worn for dress shirts. To find out more about the styles of cufflinks visit here. There are many different types of cufflinks from the bean-back cufflink to the pivot link that had special features or served certain purposes. A list of the types of cufflinks can be found on The Cufflinkking’s Glossary Page.
Today cufflinks are still in style and used in tuxedoes and for formal occasions. One can buy cufflinks at places like Tiffany’s, Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, and Men’s Warehouse, among many others. While affordable to the everyday gentleman, thanks to inventions like George Krementz’s, the prices can become high. The most expensive set of cufflinks ever sold would be for $440,000, at an auction. These were given to King Edward VIII of England, by his wife Wallis Simpson and were diamonds set in platinum. For collectors of cufflinks there is an International Cuff Link Association and cufflinks can be found in antique shops through the world. Objects like cufflinks help remind us that the tiniest object can make a huge difference. Cufflinks were worn to show wealth and prominence during the 17th – 19th Centuries and are an accessory we still use today. When and how do you use cufflinks?
Look for more posts in this series about our wonderful collection of Sherman County history.