There are lots of elegant bits & bobs we once used to wear that have fallen along the fashion wayside; these are often the treasures of vintage dressing. Cufflinks are such treasures.
Vintage Siam Sterling Silver Cufflinks From No Egrets
Once such a fashion staple that no well-dressed man would be without them, we now rarely see cufflinks on anyone other the very wealthy. But cufflinks don’t need to be all fancy-schmancy, or even all that expensive. Cufflinks come in many styles and designs, from elegant high fashion looks to kitschy fun looks. Often found for just $10 or less for a pair, vintage cufflinks are an inexpensive way to add that unique and spiffy touch to the standard — perhaps even generic — suit and tie.
Vintage Six-Shooter Pistol Cufflinks and Tie Bar Set
I love men wearing cufflinks — in fact, the first Christmas my husband I spent together while dating I got him cufflinks, a vintage white tuxedo shirt and a smoking jacket. He was, after all, my Clark Gable. *wink*
Clark Gable Wearing Cufflinks
You don’t have to be Clark Gable — or even a man — to wear cufflinks though. Both Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich both knew that cufflinks were the proper finishing touch to their “cross dressing” suits.
Greta Garbo Wearing Cufflink
Marlene Dietrich In Suit With Cufflinks
To properly wear cufflinks, you must have a shirt designed for wearing them. There are several styles of shirts still made today which allow you to wear cufflinks. Look for shirts which mention French cuffs. What we now call traditional button cuff shirts have barrel cuffs and they are not to be converted by any means necessary to allow the wearing of cufflinks. A la Seinfeld:
JERRY: Nice cuff links, by the way.
GEORGE: (Pointing to them) Office Christmas gift. I tell you, this Human Fund is a gold mine!
JERRY: That’s not a French cuff shirt, you know.
GEORGE: I know. I cut the button off and poked a hole with a letter opener.
JERRY: Oh, that’s classy.
You can, however, often replace the cuffs on any shirt with French cuffs. (As many places offer shirts, both modern and vintage, with French cuffs, it isn’t necessary to do so.) But you must at least understand the basic mechanics of shirt cuffs before you do so. Otherwise, even if you attempt a more proper way of altering the shirt to accept cufflinks, you might be missing the proper fit — and therefore the showcase — for your cufflinks.
Simply put, French cuffs are looser than barrel cuffs; the placket of the French cuff laying more smoothly and not producing the close fit or strain at the wrists that the barrel cuff has.
Barrel and French Cuffs
(Image of shirt cuffs from Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing by David Page Coffin.)
French cuffs are quite showy (and I mean that in a good way!), which means they require starching and ironing. Especially those with double cuffs. For those sewing or unsure in their ironing, the fold of the double cuff is not at the halfway point. The fold is slightly greater than half — meaning a larger part of the cuff (approximately 3 inches) is folded back over toward the shirt, covering the seam where the cuff joins the sleeve.
French cuffs are not required nor solely made in the double cuff style. There are single French cuffs on shirts which allow you to wear cufflinks, but not be held to the extra work and bulk of double cuffs. A single French cuff is not folded back; the sides lie together pointing away from the wrist and are joined by a cufflink. (Like in the photo of Garbo above, as opposed to Dietrich’s cuff.)
Vintage Face Cufflinks From Cufflink King
With vintage cufflinks you not only capture vintage style, but a great bargain too. Even the very expensive ones are worth paying for — they are rare pieces keeping your look unique. And I like to think that you also continue to carry on the happy life & celebrations the cufflinks and the former owner had too.
Cufflinks shown — and for even sale! — from No Egrets at Collectors’ Quest and Cufflink King at eBay.