“It’s been said that watching a man undo his cufflinks is every bit as sensual as hearing the zipper slide down the back of a woman’s dress. One thing I can state unequivocally is that no form of shirt sleeve closure dresses a man’s hand better than a well-fitted French cuff punctuated by the subtle glamour of its buttonhole-covering link.”
Alan Flusser; Style and the Man
The origins of the cufflink can be dated as far back as the 17th century, though it wasn’t until the mid to late 1800’s that they came to prominence as a key part of the gentleman’s wardrobe. The cufflink can give thanks for its growing popularity over the centuries to the development of the gentlemen’s shirt, a garment that has been worn by men for Millenia. Although styles of the shirt have evolved over time, the form has always remained the same – a tunic opened at the front with sleeves and a collar. It wasn’t until after the Middle Ages that the visible areas of the shirt became a focus for decoration with the addition of frills, ruffs and embroidery. The cuffs of the shirt, along with the collar, were often held together with beautiful silk ribbons, a trend that lasted (certainly when worn in more formal settings) as late as the late 1700’s, while for everyday wear the shirt cuffs were finished with a single button or a connected pair of buttons.
It was in the mid 1800’s, with the introduction of heavily starched and folded cuffs (known as the French cuff, though English in design) which were too stiff to secure with a single button, that the cufflink came to prominence among gentlemen of the middle and upper classes. These simple but elegant pieces defined by their classic design of 2 studs connected by a single chain often adorned with precious stones, soon became fashionable accessories and one of the few acceptable items of jewellery to be worn by men. In fact, by the early 1900’s more cufflinks were worn than ever before.
The cufflink remained an integral part of the gentleman’s wardrobe well into the 1950’s when the trend for a man to adorn himself with a multitude of accessories – watch, tie clip, cigarette case, ring – remained. But with the progression of the 20thcentury came the informality of fashion. Stiffer shirts were replaced with softer cloths and plain cuffs. However, the 1980’s saw a resurgence in the wearing of the cufflink which has coincided with the revival of traditional male dress, a trend that has continued to this day.
At Benson & Clegg, our cufflinks represent the finishing touch to the impeccable English wardrobe, embodying true artisanal skills and traditional craftsmanship. Our designs are inspired by the original classics of fine English tailoring – often imitated, but never equalled. Referencing icons of Englishness, from historical military regiments to the members’ clubs of Mayfair, Benson & Clegg cufflinks strike a smart balance between British sophistication and a universal style which remains timeless.