While the obvious function of cufflinks is to hold your cuffs together on shirts that have no cuff buttons, the more important purpose is to provide an opportunity for a man to wear jewelry without having to appear vulgar. However, it’s not enough to simply rush out and buy expensive cufflinks to achieve the right effect. One has to begin with the correct shirt. The most perfect cufflinks will be of no use if the shirt is not right, and the wrong cufflinks will be sure to ruin the entire outfit.
Note that we are talking about everyday menswear, not formal dress. That is a subject entirely of its own. During the workday simple metal links are appropriate, ideally silver or gold. Monochromatic enamels and dull stones are good for daylight, too. Nothing too big please. Shiny jewels, if you care for them at all, are best saved for after dark. Also, if you wear a watch, be careful that your cufflinks don’t clash.
The construction of a cufflink involves two flattish objects connected with a link, hence the name. The link can vary from a tiny chain to a bar. Alternatively, the two pieces can connect with a snap fastener, screw mechanism or even elastic. Again, just be sure that the link works with your shirts. Traditional fold-back French cuffs will require a lengthier link than a barrel cuff. Also, if you wear French cuffs, use something that is adorned on both sides so that no one assumes you can’t really afford it.
There is a tradition of using a hobby for the design of cufflinks. Sporting motifs come to mind: nautical and golfing activities have been popular. I only have two diversions from work, one of which is walking dogs. A recent gift of poodle-design cufflinks was initially delightful, but excruciatingly painful at work and at the dining table. I prefer poodles on the leash. A good rule: If they aren’t comfortable, don’t wear them.
Speaking of pastimes, it has also been said that the sight of a gentleman removing his cufflinks can be as seductive as the sound of a zipper sliding down a lady’s dress. Thankfully, gentlemen, this does not require hours of practice alone in front of a mirror, but merely good poise and the right attitude.
As with furniture, inherited cufflinks or other jewelry, such as earrings converted into cufflinks, are the best way to go. But for those of us who are not so fortunate, there are some good alternatives:
Longmire at 75a Jermyn Street in London is the top specialist store in the world, albeit with too much focus on the oligarch market. Nothing cheap here. For a simpler and more contemporary attitude, try Alice Made This. Bear in mind that style, rather than expense, is the key, and one can buy good style for a few dollars. Try silk knots.
I never wear silk knots in the presence of my father, who is very old school. He disdains them for being placeholders for the real thing at his shirtmaker, back in the day. Nevertheless, today silk knots can be a charming and versatile alternative when low-key and non-mineral are called for. Just be cautious when using the two-tone versions.
The next best thing to inheritance is eBay, and even our very own Guild Shop on Dunlavy Street. Patience will be rewarded if you are looking for something classic with a little patina. As you search, note that silver and blue designs work well together. But it is critical to stay focused on the real goal of your pursuit: a pair of two-sided, soft gold ovals with no embellishment. These will carry you anywhere in high style every day of the week.