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Posted by Erica Jago on December 09, 2015
Necessity being the mother of invention is certainly true in the development of the sleeve button, or cufflink. This accessory first appeared in the mid- 17th century in response to the fashion of wearing long, tight sleeves which had to be sewn around the arm of the gentleman in the morning and released again in the evening. Initially, ribbons and tapes were used to fasten cuffs at the wrists but the invention of the cufflink allowed the cuff to be split open and then closed using a button which passed through a small slit in the fabric thus creating the potential for a great fashion statement in a gentleman’s apparel.
Early dated cufflinks were usually octagonal in shape and set in gold with crystals or monogrammed with the initials of the wearer, a friend, sometimes in memory of the deceased. Different shapes and materials were experimented with and by the mid-18th century the oval had become popular and continued to be so well into the 19th century. The trend setting dandies of the period favoured the flamboyant, but at the same time discrete necessity of the cufflink. And encouraged jewellers to incorporate unusual materials such as enamels, beautiful banded Venetian glass, Scottish agates, Bristol glass, Whitby jet and ceramics from Wedgwood.
The elegant gentleman’s accoutrement was soon emulated by young men who wanted to rise in social status. By the end of the 19th century the first American mail order catalogues showed prolific ranges of cufflinks produced with less expensive gilt metal in the style of the great jewellers of the day. There was, however, a strict dress code in this regard as the cufflinks worn in the evening were quite distinct from those worn during daytime, being set with sparkling stones, mother of pearl or moonstones. The scope for daytime wear was enormous and English sporting themes, such as gun dogs, horses, riding crops etc. proved very popular. The reverse crystal intaglio technique allowed a three dimensional form to designs such as game birds, foxes, bees, butterflies and jockeys on horseback.
Symbolism soon became incorporated into the cufflink. A fine example is an existing pair of enameled links made by Giuliano with a butterfly encircled by a snake symbolising the soul and eternity, perhaps given by a bride to her groom as a token of her fidelity. Cufflinks may have also provided a clue to the wearer’s education or business background as many were enameled with the crests of schools, universities, regiments, religious or professional associations. Modern designs of cufflinks reflect personal monograms and family crests and remain, a traditional 21st birthday, graduation or wedding gift.
Despite the modern day movement toward casual dress, men continue to wear suits and smart shirts for social and professional occasions and the ultimate touch is still the distinctly chic cufflink or sleeve button. What could be a more compelling gift than a vintage pair of cufflinks with an interesting story…from La Vogue Vintage of course!
Traditionally, cufflinks were an accessory for men. However, modern times suggest more women are wearing cufflinks so don’t just think of him, remember her too as many cufflinks lend themselves to becoming a delightful gift for that special lady.