Designer Cufflinks: A Definitive Guide on How to Choose and How to Wear Cufflinks
In the middle of the twentieth century, you’d be hard-pressed to find a man without a solid pair of cufflinks. The suit-and-tie dress code of most workplaces at that time made the cufflink an indispensable piece of jewelry for men of distinction, class, and sophistication. Cufflinks made a statement of confidence and attention to detail then, and they can do the same for today's business professional attire.
If you’re new to the world of men’s jewelry, choosing the perfect designer cufflinks for your next formal event might seem like a daunting task. How do you fit into the conventions of the event? How can you still stand out? What makes you look smart and dignified? When you haven’t needed a set of high-quality cufflinks up until this moment, it’s easy to overthink things. But with our definitive guide to choosing and wearing the right designer cufflinks for the right occasion, we can promise that you’ll step into your next event with confidence.
Designer Cufflinks Terminology
Before the last century, cufflinks came in hundreds of shapes, sizes, materials, and designs. Today, most cufflinks companies have narrowed down the options to a few simple variations. In this guide, we’ll be looking at three separate components to better categorize the kinds of cufflinks available: fastening type, material, and design.
Let’s cover some basic terminology before digging in. The three main parts of any set of cufflinks are the face, the shaft, and the back.
This part of the cufflink is what people will see most often. The face is on the outside of the cuff, so when walking or shaking hands, this is what people will see from a distance. Faces come in many different design options, including various shapes with inlays that complement your suit or shirt choice.
Shirt cuffs without buttons require cufflinks to keep them fastened. Every cufflink requires a shaft to pass through the buttonholes on either side of the cuff. Most modern designer cufflinks have a single metal bar to pass through the holes. It acts as a peg, so to speak, through the cuff’s buttonholes, and its length determines how tightly the cuff fits.
Also known as the fastener, this part of the cufflink keeps the cuff fastened in place. These vary in shape and design nearly as much as the face, especially for double-sided cufflinks. The most common design, though, is a T-Bar, or swivel fastener. This type of fastener swivels in line with the shaft when pushing the shaft through the buttonholes. Then it swivels to a perpendicular angle to hold the cufflink in place.
What Kinds of Designer Cufflinks Are There?
The most common type of cufflinks on the market today are fixed-shaft T-bar cufflinks. These pieces include a larger face with a swivel fastener on a fixed shaft. They’re easy to fasten, and they look classy on the outside. And because they’re fairly simple to make, they can often provide a less expensive option than some of the other styles of cufflinks. Variations of the T-bar, like whaleback fasteners, are available as well.
Less common than the T-bar cufflinks are double-sided cufflinks. This single-piece option allows for flipping the cufflinks around to show two different faces, but these cufflinks tend to be a bit more difficult to work with. They also may come loose more often, depending on the size of the heads.
Finally, chain-shaft cufflinks are rarely seen, but there are some options available, specifically in high-end and vintage markets. Instead of a rigid shaft, the head and back are connected by several small chain links. These have a special air of sophistication, but they’re hard to work with. They also tend to leave cuffs rather loose compared to rigid and single-piece shafts.
What Materials Should I Look For?
Before the twenty-first century, the materials you chose for your cufflinks were often restricted by the event you were attending. Black tie occasions often required silver or gold with an onyx inlay. White tie occasions leaned towards brilliant gold tones and light semi-precious stones and materials like pearl, abalone, or opal. Evening attire was less restrictive, but the conventions of the time were simplicity and conformity.
In today’s fashion world, though, your personality is as much a part of your cufflinks as anything else in most occasions. While white- and black-tie conventions still remain relatively unchanged, there are few taboos for less formal events. Let’s explore a few different occasions to better narrow down your options.
White Tie Affairs
The most formal dress event is by far the white tie occasion. Royal state dinners, presidential dinners, and the most important and exclusive balls and galas require white-tie attire. But even weddings may demand white-tie dress code (a black suit jacket and pants, with a white waistcoat, shirt, and bow tie). In these cases, your designer cufflinks must fit within traditional expectations with few exceptions.
Gold is standard for white-tie, although silver is acceptable as well. Your cufflinks should not be flashy or expressive, but instead include only a simple mother-of-pearl inlay. There is a little room for color, so long as it coordinates with a lapel pin or floral boutonniere. When choosing the perfect designer cufflinks, err on the side of traditional and simple.
Simple white Mother of Pearl with silver accents, perfect for a white-tie event. Purchase this look here.
Black Tie Affairs
While they are certainly less formal than white tie events, black tie events still strive towards uniformity in attire. The black waistcoat and jacket contrast the white shirt. Bow tie colors can vary to some extent, but traditional black is always a good choice. Cufflinks, along with the shirt studs, are more often than not a simple silver circle with an onyx inlay.
Modern variations, though, can include square or rectangular faces. Inlays can also show a bit more personality. Dark or smoky options, including jet black crystal, sodalite, and smoke mother of pearl all contrast brilliantly against the silver.
The classic styling of black onyx and silver is the signature black-tie cufflink. Purchase this look here.
Other Formal and Semi-Formal Events
Charity balls, awards ceremonies, retirement celebrations, and less formal weddings all leave room for more sparkle and dazzle than white-tie and black-tie. Personality sits at the center of these moments, so your perfect designer cufflinks could be just about anything you love. From personalized engraving to unique materials to custom shapes, the floor is open!
When the event centers on a specific topic or cause, consider a set of cufflinks that reflects that purpose. Going to a movie premiere? A pair of designer cufflinks that honor the movie would be more than welcome. Supporting a cause? Find a semi-precious stone to match the colors of the charity. Have a special interest that’s near and dear to your heart? Get a custom set for a night honoring your achievements.
The perfect designer cufflinks for the high-power businessman, these bear-and-bull whaleback cufflinks show a spark of personality. Purchase this look here.
Professional Occasions and Daily Wear
Beyond social gatherings and special events, cufflinks are still excellent accessories for daily wear, especially when business attire is more formal (although even smart casual looks can incorporate cufflinks to great success). The perfect cufflinks for business dress speak of confidence and strength in your demeanor, without a doubt, and they make a solid impression for both everyday business and job interviews.
Daily-wear cufflinks should be durable, simple, and functional before they are flashy or opulent. Stainless steel is an increasingly popular material today, and it can be both brushed and polished to provide different looks. Gun metal has also seen a rise in popularity since it gives a sharp contrast against most dress shirt colors and is quite durable. You can also choose various shapes to show a bit more personality, including picture frames and pave styles. Choosing the right designer cufflinks for daily wear comes down to establishing a balance between personality and formality.
These sleek and stylish silver-plated cufflinks with navy blue catseye are excellent for daily professional wear. Purchase this look here.
What Makes the Perfect Designer Cufflinks
Every occasion calls for a certain type of accessory, but the most important part of choosing the right designer cufflinks is finding a pair that speaks to you on a personal level. After all, a quality set of cufflinks should last more than one night.
Ox & Bull believes in creating legacy-worthy moments through high-quality pieces of men’s jewelry. Each piece has its own personality, and we believe the piece you choose should reflect your own personality. Don’t be afraid to venture beyond standard conventions to find the perfect designer cufflinks for your next big event or for your daily routine. After all, quality pieces are very likely to end up in the hands of the next generation as part of your family legacy.