Cuff Links: A History of Style

Design Ideas B71T Cuff Links

by Jake Woolley, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Cuff links have been a constant element of men's fashion for centuries. Recently their popularity has become once again thrust into star status, accepted as a fashionable trend among men and women of all ages. So what's the story behind these small icons that dazzle the ends of our shirt sleeves? Take a look at the historical timeline behind cuff links.

Early 1600s: Towards the end of the Renaissance period, primitive cuff links are rare and used for holding a shirt cuff together as an alternative to ribbon or lace. The links are simple; a small chain fastened to the end of a metal button.

Mid-1600s: King Louis XIV, is seen dressed in shirts sleeves secured together with buttons. Often these buttons are made of metal and sometimes glass that is connected by a small chain.

1684: London Gazette newspaper references a pair of diamond cuff buttons in public print.

1715: Cuff decorations featuring specialty jewels or diamonds surpass the simplicity of a glass shirt button.

1840s: Shirts with French cuffs are popularized, demanding the need for more sophisticated cuff links.

1880s: As the United States recuperates from the Civil War, American George Krementz patents a device based on a gun shell-fabricating machine to mass produce buttons and cuff links. This gives cuff links the ability to be sold without limitations.

1920s: Jewelers of the roaring twenties invent the "t-post" with a "flip hinge," creating a modern fashion innovation while further populating the functionality of the cuff link.

1930s-1950s: In an effort to conserve resources throughout the Great Depression and WWII, general manufacturers like Swank, Anson and Hickok produce millions of inexpensive cuff links in customary styles, making them available to a range of men regardless of social status.

1950s: A necessary accessory among business men and politicians, cuff links are seen throughout movies and TV, even depicted in Disney's Peter Pan when Michael used his father's gold cuff links as buried treasure.

1960s: Cuff links soar in popularity. Double-sided cuff links become the "norm" as wearing cuff links that clip on one side suggests an individual could only afford the decorative design on the outside.

1962: Sean Connery, as the suave James Bond, enters the silver screen making his character the poster boy for well-tailored suits with "must-have" cuff links.

1970s: The functionality of shirt buttons surpasses cuff links in popularity of men's fashion. Cuff links as a fashion trend are somewhat forgotten for a short time.

1990s: Men begin returning to the cuff link as a true form of jewelry art. The cuff link is often seen at business meetings, social gatherings and black tie affairs. Women also begin to popularize the cuff link supporting creative designs in women's fashion.

2000s: Award-winning television shows like "Mad Men" and "Boardwalk Empire" publicize vintage and retro-fashion references including the popularity of mainstream cuff links. Celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake, Patrick Dempsey, Johnny Depp and many others catch the public eye while showcasing cuff links.

The newest generation develops a strong interest in cuff link styles that go far beyond the traditional. From celebrities to blue-collared Americans, cuff links continue to grow in popularity and are readily available in a wide range of prices and styles from chic to geek and sophisticated to novelty.

View cuff link design inspirations from the Gallery of Designs

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