A Brief History of Cufflinks and Studs

Posted on February 10 2016

Cufflinks and studs have been around for a very, very long time. Some historians may even have found cufflink type references in Ancient Egyptian paintings. Cufflinks and studs are often associated with formality and the upper class. Most people that own cufflinks and studs only tend to wear them for special occasions or important business meetings. But how did cufflinks and studs even come about? How did they evolve?


            The modern cufflinks and studs can be traced back to the early 1600’s. However, they didn’t become very popular until a couple hundred years later. There is a correlation of the evolution of the shirt and the rise of the cufflink. During the Middle Ages the visible parts of men’s shirts became the site of frills and ruffles and ribbons. Very few of us can imagine that in this day and age, but back then they didn’t have many options. Even though the frills and ribbons were decorative they were also functional. They would hold the sleeve or neck openings closed, thus making the shirt fit better. Right before cufflinks and studs became popular, long frills that hung over the hands were the common sight in court and other formal events and settings. Men started using small chains to keep their cuffs together, but this still wasn’t a very popular thing to do.


            However, the grandeur and frills of the eighteenth century soon gave way to the newly employed working classes in the early nineteenth century. Fashion changed quite a bit and people had started wearing more conventional clothing. For men this was often a darker suit for the day and a dinner jacket at night. It was during this time period that cufflinks and studs became popular. The shirts became more practical and much sturdier, but when they were cleaned and starched the collars and cuffs often became too stiff for buttons. So, if you were one of the onwards and upwards men of the early nineteenth century you made sure to own a set of cufflinks. Because of the Industrial Revolution cufflinks were quickly becoming widely available and affordable for almost every one.


            If you’re in the market for cufflinks and studs you will find a great variety of colors, shapes, and materials. But this was not always so. When cufflinks first started being utilized more often only men with audacious confidence would be seen wearing unabashedly colored cufflinks. That is, until the Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII, was seen wearing colored Fabergé cufflinks. This is when cufflinks became one of the very few pieces of jewelry that was respectable for men to wear. Cufflinks and studs became one of the most popular jewelry items to wear and continued to be popular until about the 1970’s, when the fashion became less about staunch lines and formality but about whimsy and flowing shirts. But there was a resurgence in cufflink popularity in the 1980’s which we can continue to see today. Cufflinks today are worn by men and women to dress any outfit up. Women will use cufflinks to match their other jewelry and men will often match their ties if they’re wearing colored cufflinks or match their other jewelry if they are wearing metal ones.


            Cufflinks and studs may not seem like much, but they have a long and rich history. At one point they were only about practicality and now they can allow you to show off your personality, even in the most formal situations. You can also wear them casually as a way to spice up your outfit. Would you really want frills and ribbons keeping your shirt sleeves or collar in place? Probably not, so thank fashion progress for cufflinks and studs.
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