How to Wear Cufflinks Like a True Gentleman

Just like a brooch, cufflinks are both decorative and functional accessories. They show class and panache, yet they are dispensable. And often, most men have no idea when and how to wear cufflinks that they end up discarding them altogether.

Well, in this article, we will be teaching you how to wear cufflinks like a pro.

Fortunately for us, even though millennial fashion is trendy nowadays — think jeans-and-shirt ensemble all-day every day — some men remain true to their sartorial roots. And cufflinks are still used, albeit not commonly anymore.

Tiffany & Co. Cufflinks, Gold Cufflinks

What Are Cufflinks?

First off, let’s define the meaning of cufflinks.

Cufflinks are fastening accessories used for securing or buttoning shirt cuffs, particularly when wearing a formal jacket or a coat. These are tiny tools that are used as a fashionable alternative to buttons.

Just as buttons come in different styles and materials, so do cufflinks — but often more extravagantly so. Considered a more decorative choice, cufflinks can go from classic and minimalist to trendy and fanciful.

How to wear cufflinks without looking like you’re trying hard can be a little bit daunting. Therefore, it pays to know a little bit of background about this sartorial tool.

Parts of a Cufflink, Cufflinks
Photo from Pinterest

Parts of a Cufflink

Next, let’s talk about the three basic parts of a cufflink that you need to know.

It pays to know your cufflink parts not only to make you sound fashion-smart, but so you will easily understand how cufflinks work.

Front Face/Head. This is the decorative top part of the cufflink that shows off the intricate design or precious gemstone.

Post. This is the slender bar or cylinder that is inserted through the buttonhole. It is attached to the head on one end and the toggle on the other.

Toggle. This is the bottom part of the cufflink. This serves as the locking and securing mechanism to keep the cufflink from slipping out of the buttonhole.

Musket Ball Cufflinks, Vintage Cufflinks
Photo from englishrelics.com

History of Cufflinks

Cufflinks go way, way back in time. Before the 13th century, men used strings and belts to fasten their clothes. Buttons were only invented in the 13th-14th century when fitted garments became all the rage.

By the end of the 17th century, men have finally realised the impracticality of fancy lacy cuffs and started using decorative ribbons to tie their cuffs. Because it was the wealthy and noblemen who started the trend, tying the cuffs with fancy ribbons became a status symbol back then.

Eventually, embellished buttons — which we now refer to in modern times as cufflinks — replaced the ribbons. The bejewelled buttons were not only practical, but they’re also more decorative than ribbons.

Classic Cufflinks, Cufflinks
Photo from pexels.com

An Enduring & Classic Trend

Although the trend came and went, the cufflinks remained visible within the fashionable circles throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

During the Industrial Revolution in Europe and America in the 18th century, cufflinks were started to be mass-produced, which allowed everyone to avail them at different price points. The wealthy, of course, were able to get cufflinks made of gold and studded with diamonds and gemstones.

But it was in the 1920s when the iconic fashion designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel included cufflinks in her collection that the cufflinks caught the attention of mainstream fashion.

The trend took a back seat for a while but resurrected in the ‘50s with chunkier versions. When Mick Jagger popularised the lavish men’s shirts, opulent cufflinks came with them. However, in the ‘70s, during the hippie revolution, the trend took a second fiddle once again, giving way to eclectic fashion.

The Woodstock fashion of the ‘70s primarily consisted of a trendy mix of colourful shirts complete with buttons. Hence, cufflinks were not needed anymore, and most of them were reworked into jewellery.

However, in the ‘80s, the cufflinks trend once again made way to mainstream fashion. Some say it was mainly due to the hit TV series ‘Brideshead Revisited’, based on a novel by Evelyn Waugh which was set in the 1940s — the time where formal wear complete with cufflinks was all the rage.

From the ’80s to this day, wearing cufflinks has remained in fashion — at least for the sartorial devotees.

Tateossian Cufflinks, Cufflinks

Cufflinks Today

Nowadays, cufflinks are more than just accessories and a tool for fashion. There are designer cufflinks that are works of art not only because they are set with precious stones, but because of the craftsmanship and artistry involved in creating them.

With many options for style, materials, and design, wearing cufflinks allows men to express themselves fashionably and creatively. Along with watches and bracelets, cufflinks are among the few accessories that men can wear without the risk of looking ‘too flashy’.

Needless to say, with cufflinks, men can subtly show off their fashion quirks and preferences with a touch of luxury and style.

Why Should You Wear Cufflinks

Granted you don’t really need cufflinks to fasten your shirt cuff because simple buttons can do the job just fine. However, wearing cufflinks elevate your style tenfolds.

If you need more reasons to start wearing cufflinks, here are a few that we can think of.

Wearing cufflinks proves you got style and panache. It shows you take pride in dressing not just because you look good, but because it makes you feel good.

Wearing cufflinks connotes luxury. Without being too flashy and flamboyant, cufflinks exude just the right amount of opulence. Imagine a gem-studded cufflink peeking every now and then from your cuff — it’s the perfect little rich detail that matters.

Cufflinks complete a polished look. More than the usual dress watch, a pair of cufflinks sets a stylish gentleman apart from a group of well-dressed men.

Cufflinks make an affair extra special. Whether you’re attending a really big event or an important occasion that you need an extra boost of confidence for, wearing cufflinks ups the sophistication of your wardrobe to make you feel extra fancy.

How to wear cufflinks, Cufflinks
Photo from pexels.com

How to Wear Cufflinks

Because cufflinks come in various styles, designs, and materials, wearing them is no longer just confined to black-tie events. You can wear cufflinks with jeans, too, if you wish, as long as the design is more casual and appropriate.

In other words, wearing cufflinks depends pretty much on the occasion and your wardrobe of choice. A black tie suit at a formal event requires formal cufflinks. While casual wardrobe should have more casual cufflinks.

Below are the most common questions men ask on how to wear cufflinks. Let’s go through them one by one.

1. What type of shirt requires cufflinks?

Ideally, you need to wear cufflinks with your French cuffs (or a shirt with double cuffs). French cuffs are the shirts you wear during semi-formal events or a wedding with a tuxedo. French cuffs are characterised by an extra length in the cuff that is folded back and secured with cufflinks.

2. Do you need a tie to wear with cufflinks?

Not necessarily. In fact, wearing French cuffs and a coat without a tie is becoming a trend nowadays. It shows you have panache without coming on too formal and trying hard.

3. Can you wear cufflinks with jeans?

Absolutely, as long as you wear the wardrobe combination with confidence. Although it can be tricky, wearing cufflinks with jeans can be pulled off as long as you wear jeans that are not too casual. This means the jeans should be dark, slim-fit (definitely not baggy) and without rips or holes.

4. Do you need to match your cufflinks with your shirt?

You don’t have to. The trick is to invest in cufflinks that have a versatile style and colour to make sure they will go with every style of wardrobe you’ll wear.

To begin with, you only need a set of stud cufflinks in gold, one pair in silver or white gold, and one in colour (black or blue). Other than these three basic pairs, you can also get ones with a quirky and fun design, depending on your style.

White or neutral coloured shirts are easier to match with cufflinks as any colour will go well with them. When in doubt about which colour of cufflinks to wear, go with the monochromatic rule — meaning, wear the same colour of cufflinks as your shirt, but in a different shade.

Van Cleef & Arpels Cufflinks, Cufflinks
Photo from Van Cleef & Arpels

5. What are the appropriate cufflinks to wear?

Below is a basic lowdown on which type of cufflinks to wear during which event/occasion.

Business Meetings. When you’re out to impress a client, it’s a good idea to wear cufflinks. It shows you take pride in dressing well and that the meeting is important enough for you to dress well. The aim is to look polished but not too flashy. So keep your cufflinks classy and subdued. Think silver or black or navy blue.

Dinner Parties. It is acceptable to play with colours in your cufflinks for parties. Gem-set cufflinks in gold or silver are appropriate. This is a good time to inject a little bit of your style and personality into your wardrobe through your cufflinks. Chain link, ball return, whalebacks, or bullet backs are common favourites. We will get into these types of cufflinks later.

Gala Events & Weddings. It is advisable to wear classic, simple cufflinks on more formal occasions. But it doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be boring. Balance is key. If you opt for unique or extraordinary designs, make sure they are made of fine materials or precious gemstones so they can also be conversation starters at parties.

Black Tie & Formal Events. Black onyx is a favourite cufflink gemstone for black tie events. Tuxedos usually come with matching cufflinks and shirt studs. So if you prefer to wear a different set of cufflinks, make sure they match with your shirt studs, too.

How to Use Cufflinks

Just like an earring, using cufflinks is pretty much straight forward. Cufflinks either have bars, toggles, or posts that you can twist and lock. [See parts of a cufflink above.]

1. First, open the cuff link.
2. Second, insert the bar or post through the buttonhole. Make sure the decorative part is on the visible side.
3. Secure or lock the cufflink. This will depend on the type of fastening of your cufflinks.

Cufflinks, Different Types of Cufflinks
Photo from christies.com

Types of Cufflinks

Depending on your preference, you can have cufflinks made of different materials. Some of the most commonly used materials for cufflinks include gold, titanium, silver, precious gemstones, glass, and leather. Choosing which material to get for your cufflinks is easy as it all depends on your preference and style.

Choosing the type of fastener, however, is a different story. Cufflinks fastening can be a little bit intimidating, not to mention this is an important factor when you’re shopping for cufflinks. This determines how your cufflinks will sit on your cuff, and how easy or difficult it will be to put them on.

Below are the common types of cufflinks fastening you need to know about:

Whaleback Cufflinks. The most common among cufflinks, whaleback cufflinks are very easy to use. This type of cufflink features a straight post wherein the end flips flat against the post like a whale’s tail so you can easily insert it into the buttonhole. To lock, just flip the end back again.

Bullet Back Cufflinks. The design is similar to the whaleback, but the post is hollow inside so that it can nestle the latch or cylinder when its flipped in to insert into the buttonhole. To lock the links in place, flip the latch outward again.

Stud or Button Cufflinks. These are one of the sturdy types because they don’t have a delicate hinge mechanism. They consist of a big head, a straight post, and a smaller head or backing. To insert into the buttonhole, tilt and slide the smaller head through the hole, and then straighten it out to secure the cufflink in place.

Chain Link Cufflinks. Unlike the other types of cufflinks, the chain link cufflinks provide a looser fastening because the two heads are separated by a short chain. One head goes into either buttonhole, and the chain keeps the cuff loosely secured.

Ball Return Cufflinks. This type of cufflinks provides a ball at one end and a head at the other and has a curved post. To use the Ball Return cufflinks, simply tilt and push the smaller head through the buttonhole, and then straighten it to secure the cufflink in place. Just like the Chain Link cufflinks, the Ball Return also provides a looser fastening than hinged cufflinks.

Locking Dual-Action Cufflinks. A modern style cufflink, the Dual-Action works like a wristwatch fastener. To use, open the cufflink hinge, slide the smaller end through the buttonhole, and then shut the cufflink once more, clipping the sides of the cuff together to secure the cufflink in place.

Knot Cufflinks. Using soft cord silk, Knot cufflinks connect two heads together to secure the cuffs in place. Because it provides a looser fastening, Knot cufflinks are perfect for a casual look. This type often features colourful and quirky materials.

Our Top 10 Favourite Cufflinks

Cartier Watch Crown Decor Cufflinks, Cartier Watch Crown Decor Cufflinks

Set in sterling silver with Palladium-finish, this pair of dashing cufflinks features synthetic blue spinels, inspired by the iconic Cartier watch crown. If you’re a fan of Cartier watches, then these accessories are certainly a must-have. Imagine wearing these and a matching Cartier Tank timepiece — perfection!

Piaget Altiplano Cufflinks, Piaget Cufflinks, Cufflinks

Piaget Altiplano Cufflinks

These Piaget Altiplano cufflinks are all about opulence in 18K rose gold and hematite. The elegant lines of the cufflinks are reminiscent of the sophistication of the ultra-thin Altiplano watch. Perfect for formal and semi-formal events, these Altiplano cufflinks are classic and timeless.

Van Cleef & Arpels Pierre Arpels Sticks Cufflinks, Van Cleef & Arpels cufflinks
Van Cleef & Arpels Pierre Arpels Sticks Cufflinks

Elegant in white gold, diamond, and agate, these Pierre Arpels Sticks cufflinks from Van Cleef & Arpels are all handmade. Four round diamonds are set on each end of the ‘sticks’, giving off a subtle luxury and understated elegance. The white gold and white agate stand out against a black tuxedo background.

Tiffany & Co. Knot Cufflinks, Cufflinks, Gold CufflinksTiffany & Co. Knot Cufflinks

These modern and sophisticated 18K yellow gold Knot cufflinks from Tiffany & Co. are all you need to up your fashion game. Wear it up or down with a suit or a pair of dark jeans. Either way, you’ll ooze urbane sophistication.

Bvlgari Bvlgari Cufflinks, Cufflinks, Bvlgari Cufflinks

Bvlgari Bvlgari Cufflinks

Set in sterling silver, these Bvlgari Bvlgari cufflinks exude contemporary elegance. The lapis lazuli gives off just the right amount of royal treatment, while the iconic logo takes centre stage. These classic accessories are perfect for formal occasions.

Paul Smith Guitar Cufflinks, Cufflinks, Silver Cufflinks

Paul Smith Guitar Cufflinks

Show your fun and avant-garde style with these Guitar cufflinks from Paul Smith. These cufflinks are made of polished silver with mother-of-pearl and feature an embossed T-bar fastening. These quirky accessories are perfect conversation starters at parties.

Tateossian Signature Classic Cufflinks, Cufflinks, Tateossian Cufflinks

Tateossian Signature Classic Cufflinks

Complete your business suiting with these Signature Classic cufflinks from Tateossian. These luxurious rose gold-plated cufflinks with diamond pattern complement your sleek style without being too over-the-top.Montblanc Round Wave Enamel Cufflinks, Enamel Cufflinks, Cufflinks

Montblanc Round Wave Enamel Cufflinks

You’ll never go wrong with a classic silver and black accessory. And these Round Wave Enamel cufflinks from Montblanc are proof that you can dress to impress without being too lavish. Timeless and elegant, these toggle cufflinks are made of enamel, sterling silver and loads of character.

Bottega Veneta Zebra Cufflinks, Ceramic Cufflinks, CufflinksBottega Veneta Zebra Cufflinks

Let your playful side peek from your sleeves from time to time with these Bottega Venera Zebra cufflinks. Hand-enamelled over sterling silver, these cufflinks feature a pair of zebras playing on a patch of green grass. These are perfect little surprises to hide under your crisp button-downs.

Montegrappa Purple Steel Il Signore Cufflinks, Cufflinks, Montegrappa Cufflinks

Montegrappa Purple Steel Il Signore Cufflinks

Featuring Montegrappa’s signature octagonal design, these Purple Steel Il Signore cufflinks add a dash of sophistication to any shirt cuff. An elegant option for everyday business wear or special occasions, these cufflinks are exquisitely crafted from ceramics and sterling silver and finished with a whaleback fastening.Tom Ford Onyx and Gold Disc Cufflinks, Tom Ford Cufflinks, Gold Cufflinks

Tom Ford Onyx and Gold Disc Cufflinks

Easy to wear with a bullet-back fastening, these Tom Ford cufflinks are crafted from onyx and 18K yellow gold. With a classic black and gold theme, these cufflinks bring a subtle sophistication to any suit ensemble.

 

There you have it, gentlemen. Whether you’re an amateur cufflink user or a fashion geek who already have a massive cufflinks collection, we hope we have whetted your sartorial appetite with our comprehensive guide to wearing cufflinks.

Mr Maxim
Mr Maxim is your go-to guy for all things men's lifestyle. If you need help getting your mojo together, Mr Maxim has all the tips you need to survive as a modern man in the 21st century.

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