The cuff link: if there’s an item of men's clothing that immediately says “high fashion,” this is it.
What we now know as the cufflink first came on the scene in the early 1500s, when prominent males started wearing shirts with ruffled wristbands that were tied together with ribbon or strings.
This style would remain popular and in use until the 19th century, but the early 18th century would see the introduction of gold and silver chains attached to small “sleeve buttons” made of glass. By the mid-1700s, the gold chains would still be in place, but the glass buttons would be replaced by more decorative buttons made of jewels - usually diamonds - and the “cuff link” became an integral part of a man’s wardrobe.
The modern cufflink was born in literature - Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo - when a character wore a shirt with diamonds on the cuff. These diamonds were a source of envy in just about everyone that saw them. A short time after the publication of this book, tailors saw how much of an impact the accent could make.
At the end of the 1700s, the Industrial Revolution was making everything cheaper and more efficient. Chains were replaced with rods. Cufflinks became more affordable, and soon, men in every class were wearing them. Shirt makers took advantage and increased production of formal shirts. Sales went through the roof, and cufflinks were everywhere.
By the late 20th century, shirt makers were producing shirts with buttons already on the cuffs – which led to a decline in men wearing cufflinks. Most "everyday" men’s shirts were utilizing the ease and durability of buttons, but high end manufacturers kept their “cufflink” styles. Luxury jewelers were still producing cufflinks to go with these shirts, and the style again became associated with high fashion - an association that is still in place today.
Since their introduction, cufflinks have been associated with luxury. In 16th century royalty, cufflinks generally commemorated special events. Gentlemen of that time actually wouldn’t purchase cufflinks on their own. They would only add to their cufflink collection through gifts. That tradition continues today, as set of cuff links is often given as a groomsman’s gift at a wedding.
Cuff links give a man the chance to truly make a statement - to make a suit unique. With the range of styles and colors available in cull links today, it only makes sense that they're more popular than ever. The materials may have changed, but the message of a cuff link hasn't. From the time of glass buttons and silver chains, the cuff link has been associated with high society. Whether it's a special set passed down through several generations, or a set purchased for everyday use, it's clear; the cuff link is versatile and functional, but an absolutely undeniable sign of a discerning gentleman.