Author: Andy Jones
If most men had a jewellery box it would have a pretty limited guest list - a ring, a watch and that, sadly, is it. Maybe a stray bracelet or an earring for those chaps taking a risk. It’s a tad unfair that life only allows men trinkets if they show your marital status or can tell the time.
But that’s where the majesty of a good set of cufflinks comes in - the glittering star against the dark night of a business suit. A flash of sophistication to add to every introductory handshake or a spritz of personality when you gesture in the boardroom. If you think we’re going overboard, it’s you who are a step behind the trend.
In fact, market research company Technavio boldly predicts the cufflink market will be worth £4.5bn by 2021, up from £2.6bn last year.
To put that into context, that’s more than the GDP of Barbados.
Some of the world's sharpest ever men built their wardrobes on links. Cary Grant had over 200 pairs. Louis XIV was one of the earliest purveyors of cuff jewellery, having thousands of different diamond buttons for different occasions. And James Bond has worn a pair in almost every film.
Nancy Sinatra famously sang a song about them. She crooned, “So I took his cufflinks and his tie clip, And I made him feel right at home, I put on the hi-fi with the lights low, And we had a little party of our own.”
In 2016, Christie’s the auctioneers even had its first ever cufflinks-only sale. Some 150 pairs were sold, including a set of Verdure lapis lazuli eagle cufflinks with ruby eyes and gold beaks for £11,700.
You can bet they aren’t kept in a sock drawer. But why leave the Porsche in the garage? Roll your cufflinks out and express yourself.
Cuff guys finish first
For many, matching cufflinks to each look is part of the ritual of getting ready for success, perfect for mixing the creative with the business. Jean David Malat, 41, is a former Prada model and celebrated modern art dealer - discovering groundbreaking new artists to sell to the likes of Pierce Brosnan, Jude Law and Dolce & Gabbana from his newly opened Mayfair gallery. He has one pair for every day of the month, carefully selected to reveal a glimpse of his character.
“I wear them when I wear a suit, so almost every day,” says Malat. “I typically match them with my tie, but, if I don’t choose to wear a tie, I like to match them with a watch. I like black cufflinks with a black Hublot watch or silver to match a silver Rolex.”
Every cufflink tells a story. As I am told by Mark Platt, director of Veritas cufflinks - a manufacturer with the official Royal warrant, no less - there is something special behind each pair.
In 1935, Ms Wallis Simpson ordered a pair of brilliantly cut diamond cufflinks from Cartier in Bond Street, formed into the initials E and W. They were for her lover Edward VIII, whilst he agonised over whether to give up the throne for the woman he loved. Inscribed were the words, “Hold tight.”
The king-to-be did exactly that. In the end, he happily gave up the crown, but kept the love of his life and, no doubt, the links. “These small, beautifully-formed accessories articulated so much about the motivations of the two key players in a major constitutional crisis,” says Platt. “For most of us cufflinks need not work quite so hard, but they still reflect clearly the way in which a man wants to be perceived.”
For Malat, cufflinks also mark every occasion: “It is one of my wife’s favourite presents for my birthday or Christmas - every day I put them on I am reminded of each happy day,” he says, before describing how once he spent weeks searching different shops and online stores trying to replace his pair favourite silver and blue links which he lost. He says, “For each outfit or look they are the cherry on the cake.”
In Georgian London, gentlemen proclaimed their wealth by wearing shirts with extravagant collars and cuffs in the finest, whitest, most luxurious cotton, with cufflinks made of gold and silver and decorated with stones, mosaics and cameos. Throughout the ages a steady etiquette evolved of what cufflink to wear at what time. Gold cufflinks were designed for the morning, to catch the morning sun and silver cufflinks were designed for the evening to catch the moon.
The history of the cufflink is filled with character and daring, much like the men who wore them. Other men make an impact in a more subtle way. The classic nut-and-bolt style cufflink was invented by designer, Paul Flato, in the 1930s completely by accident. Flato - having realised he'd forgotten his cuffs - simply took a polished brass nut and bolt and held his cuffs together with them. They were a hit.
Many other styles exist, each bent to suit your needs. The whale tail - which you pop through and carefully fold into place. The fixed back, that you need to screw into place - slightly more effort, but - during a night dancing on tables - it’ll stick closer to you than your cologne. Then there’s knotted fabric pull-through - perfect for the man who doesn’t want precious metal clacking against his keyboard whilst he works.
Simply choose your link to suit the way you think.
Wearing your heart on your sleeve
It almost seems a sin that today’s creators and billionaires, like Snap CEO Evan Spiegel or Apple CEO Tim Cook, dress like they fell out of Silicon Valley normcore. But you needn’t be a dandy to wear cufflinks either.
That’s right. Cufflinks may seem as tightly gripped to a suit as they are to your shirt, but a silver set of links against a dark shirt can suddenly become centre stage. A flash of rose gold on a dress shirt, or a glimmer of silver on something jet black, adding just enough colour to reveal a subtle attention to the little details.
“Cufflinks these days provide a hundred ways for a man to wear his personality - whimsical and amusing, urbane and business or even outrageous extravert on his sleeve,” says Platt. At T.M.Lewin, our Veritas range of premium cufflinks play with combinations of new and very modern materials, like carbon fibre and coloured ionic plate. But also tip a hat to the rich, traditional materials of cufflinks’ historical origins, such as real gold thread used in ceremonial and military uniforms and even semi-precious stones.
Buying your own or being presented them is always a special moment. After all, flipping open the box and seeing the sparkle inside is the closest most men will ever get to being proposed to. Claibourne Poindexter, Christies’ own cufflinks and men’s jewellery expert, wistfully recalls being presented with his own first pair before his high school prom. He says, “I found myself entranced by their subtle beauty, admiring the stones and the way they played with the light when I wore them.”
Even if you aren’t as bedazzled as Poindexter, he has some advice for the debut purchaser - and he should know having assisted in arranging his company’s record-breaking cufflinks auction. He says, “For a first-time buyer of cufflinks, it is always worth acquiring a predominantly gold pair that can be worn on all occasions. In regards to what I wear myself today, I find myself gravitating increasingly towards antique examples that I know I’ll never see someone else wearing.”
And that is the destiny of all cufflink junkies. Finding the one pair that perfectly captures your mood in a way that no-one else can emulate. Something, you’ll agree, that’s far too good to keep locked in a drawer.