How to Wear Cufflinks


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Firstly what are Cufflinks?

Cufflinks put simply are an alternative for buttons on the cuffs of shirts. Some shirts, especially formal dress shirts, are made without any buttons at all. They often have simple holes, perfect for cufflinks to come in to tie the cuffs together! Cufflinks offer the wearer to showcase a bit more of their own personal style, and add a bit of flash to a formal outfit.

History of the Cufflinks

Wearing cufflinks became common place until around the end of the 18th Century. It was in the 19th Century, with the emergence of a bigger middle class, that more and more men came to wear suits and tails for the day and evening respectively. It was at the end of the 19th Century when cufflinks really became popular. It seemed like every man (and some women) in the upper and middle classes wore cufflinks. The industrial revolution helped keep up with the demand for cufflinks, as they could be easily mass-produced. It also meant that cufflinks could be produced at a cheaper price, and so they became more accessible for others – not just those in the upper and middle classes.

Edward VII helped introduce gemstone cufflinks to England, or at least helped make them popular! His first coloured cufflinks were actually Faberge cufflinks no less.

During the 20th Century, cufflinks were even more sought after. This allowed designers to really get stuck into different designs. Cufflinks became available in varying colours, materials, and sometimes included intricate designs. This was also around the time that many shirts were being designed in a more ‘sporty’ style. The sporty style had un-starched cuffs which could be easily fastened with buttons, instead of cufflinks.

Cufflinks dipped in popularity slightly in the 1970’s, as most shirts were produced, already having buttons sewn on, instead of two holes for cufflinks. However, thankfully the 1980s saw a resurgence in traditional male attire and with it resurgence in cufflinks and now you can get a whole range of unique antique jewellery cuffs.

Types of Cufflinks

There are many different types of cufflinks, incorporating different materials such as: gemstones, gold, platinum, and titanium, knotted silk or soft cord (the more affordable choice).

There are two common styles of fittings for cufflinks: bullet back, and whale back cufflinks.

Bullet Back

These types of cufflinks are very durable and easy to use. They have a hollow frame with a small tube or bar of metal that sits inside the frame. The tube then rotates at a 90 degree angle, which allows the cufflinks to lock, leaving the hollow frame as the post. Bullet back cufflinks only have one decorative face, with a simple tube of metal at the back.

Whale Back

These types of cufflinks have a flat head with a solid straight post. There is a ‘whale tail’ at the end (hence the name) that twists completely flat against the post. Similar to the bullet back cufflinks, the whale backs are very durable and easy to use.

There are also other various types of cufflinks such as: chain link, ball return, stud or button, and locking dual-action.

Chain Link

Chain link cufflinks have two decorative faces, typically identical decorative faces. The faces are connected with a short length of chain. They are usually looser fitting than other fastenings. Chain link cufflinks are perhaps the most traditional style of cufflinks.

Stud or Button

This style of cufflinks has no moving parts. Instead they have a large decorative face which is attached to a small solid post with a smaller face or backing. They are put into place by manoeuvring the smaller head through the button holes.

Ball Return

Ball return cufflinks have a small, heavy ball of metal on one end, and the decorative face on the other end. They have a looser fastening than other style of cufflinks, but a tighter fastening than chain link cufflinks.

Locking Dual-Action

This particular style of cufflinks is very contemporary in style. They work like a clip, or like the fastening of a wristwatch. The locking dual-action cufflinks has a hinge in the centre that allows them to slide into the buttonholes, which then clips shut to hold the cuff together.

How to Wear Cufflinks

There are a couple of ways you can wear cufflinks: the barrelled cuffs, and the kissing cuffs.

Barrel Cuffs:

This is a casual cufflink wearing option. It makes the cuffs appear thinner, giving the shirt a more contemporary look. The wearer places one cuff on top of the other and then lines the hole up. This way it fastens just as it would if a button were attached.

Kissing Cuffs:

The wearer needs to make sure that the bar of the cufflink, if it has one, is pointing straight down, then they need to line the two holes up on the cuff. The wearer then needs to insert the cufflink into the two holes with the ornate face pointing up; twist the small bar back to the original horizontal position to lock the cufflinks in.

This technique works well with single cuffs, or double cuffs, as long as you line up the hole correctly.

When to Wear Cufflinks

As I’ve mentioned above, cufflinks are typically worn for semi-formal and formal events, such as weddings, and sometimes work.

There are many different styles of cufflinks, some that are more of the playful, fun side that could work well in a more dressed-down look. However, it is advised that cufflinks should be avoided when wearing a completely casual outfit, especially if it doesn’t include a suit or dinner jacket.


Cufflinks can introduce some energy into an outfit, and weddings can be the perfect time to experiment with this! Add a pop of colour, or an interesting design to your wedding outfit in the form of cufflinks.

If it is in keeping with your personality and your chosen outfit, then why not branch out into novelty cufflinks. Novelty doesn’t mean that they can’t be stylish. Think outside of the box when it comes to wearing cufflinks at a wedding.

Black Tie

I recognise that I’ve just emphasised the use of fun and novelty cufflinks, throw all of that advice out of the window! When it comes to a very formal event, it is best to stick with the classic and traditional designs, which are more subtle.

Work and Business

When it comes to business and work attire anything too crazy is again not the best idea. Simple designs are the way to go. However, colours and materials can still be incorporated, just in an understated way. As with most things, it is wise to match the metal of your cufflinks to any other accessories you are wearing – matching here is key.

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