So you've forayed into the wonderful world of formal wear. Fantastic! No doubt you've come across the primary accessory of formal attire: cufflinks. So just what are cufflinks? What do you wear them to and what do you wear them with?
In this article, you'll find a step-by-step breakdown of the answers to these questions.
What Are Cufflinks?
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So just what are cufflinks?
A good set of cufflinks can help add your personal style to any standard suit. They can be comical, classy, add a pop of color to an otherwise monochrome ensemble, and most of all, add a subtle personal touch to your look.
What Are Cufflinks And How Do They Work?
Contrary to popular opinion, cufflinks don't work like a pin. Pins have two separate parts: a face, the part we show off, and a stopper which the pin sinks into. These hold the accessory in place.
Cufflinks are one piece of jewelry. There's no need to worry about losing the stopper because it's built right in! The main difference is that a pin works by piercing a solid surface, while a cufflink slips between two pre-cut holes in the cuff of a formal shirt. We'll get more into the kinds of shirts to wear cufflinks with a little later.
Cufflinks have three main parts: the head, the post, and the toggle.
The head is the artistic part of the cufflinks we want to show off an accessorize with.
The post extends from the back of the face, like a pin back. This is the part that goes through the holes in your shirt cuff.
The toggle is the part that holds the cufflinks in place. As you are putting the cufflinks on, the toggle folds against the post, allowing it to pass through the holes in your shirt cuff. Once the cufflinks are in place, you unfold the toggle to hold the whole cufflink in place. The toggle sits across the holes in the French cuff and keeps the cufflink from sliding back out of place
What Are Cufflinks And When Do You Wear Them?
The question is less when to wear cufflinks, and more what type of cufflinks to wear to an event. Cufflinks are available in a vast range of styles and combinations. You can find the appropriate kind of cufflinks for virtually any event.
Here are some rules of thumb for what sort of cufflinks to wear at different events.
What Are Cufflinks For Black-Tie Events?
'Black-tie' refers to a highly formal event. These are typically things like weddings and funerals.
Wearing cufflinks to a black-tie event means you're wearing them to accessorize a formal suit. "Less is more" is a good rule to follow when choosing your style. Highly formal attire favors sleek, crisp lines and subtle details.
Cufflinks that complement this style are much the same. You'll want to favor simple designs with perhaps one or two subtle elements such as an etched texture. Uniformity is also a plus, so you'll want to look for designs that are simple shapes such as circles, squares, or rectangles. Simple metal tones, such as chrome, gold, or silver are a good idea here. However, if you want to give your outfit a little more personality, you could try accessorizing with an uncommon metal tone such as white or rose gold.
Not only are these colors less common in jewelry, but they will also stand out against your suit better.
What Are Cufflinks For White-Tie Events?
First, if you're attending a white tie event, you've officially made it. Congratulations.
A ‘white tie' event refers specifically to the white bowtie worn with a traditional tuxedo. These are events like state dinners, the Oscars, the Met Gala, and so on. White tie events aren't just formal, they're elegant. While the rules of fashion for a white tie event are more exacting, the more flamboyant nature of the attire overall can let you do some fun things with your cufflinks.
White tie events follow a lot of the same rules of design as black tie. You don't want an overly complicated or gaudy design. However, the key difference is with the rules of color and metal tone. Where you would want a simple metal finish for a black-tie event, try cufflinks with a gemstone setting for a white tie event. You can have a faceted gemstone setting to add color and shine to your outfit or a polished stone for something more subtle. In terms of color, a white tie event is likely to have a dress code, so consult your invitation when choosing specific details.
What Are Cufflinks For Casual Or Office Settings?
If you think cufflinks are just for fancy parties, guess again. Cufflinks can be a great accessory to wear in a variety of business casual venues, such as around the office.
Without the rules of a formal setting to stick to, the world is your oyster. Mix and match your style of cufflinks with different colors of work shirt. A good rule of thumb is to pick cufflinks that will stand out without clashing.
If your work shirt is white, chose colored cufflinks. If your shirt is darker, choose cufflinks which are lighter or shiny so it stands out or vice versa. Be careful of clashing colors. If your shirt is a cool color such as blue, green, or purple, stay within that family of colors for your cufflinks. If your shirt is a hot color such as red, yellow or orange, follow the same rule of thumb.
Guide On How To Wear Cufflinks
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We've looked at a how cufflinks work and what to look for when picking cufflinks for an event. Now let's take a look at what types of clothes you need and some different styles of cufflinks you can choose from.
What Type Of Shirt Do I Wear?
You can wear Cufflinks with essentially any button-down shirt. Even a dress shirt with regular buttoned cuffs may have a second buttonhole. You can affix a pair of cufflinks through this extra hole to wear as a fashion accessory, rather than holding your cuff together. Working as a fastner or just along for the ride, a set of cufflinks are always a good choice.
More commonly, cufflinks are used to fasten French cuffs. You find French cuffs on more formal shirts. Instead of buttoning together like a standard button-down, they have two holes which line up when the cuff folds around your wrist.
What Type Of Cufflinks Should I Wear?
There are a variety of different styles of cufflinks, all of them at different levels of formality and function. Here are a few examples.
Bullet Back Cufflinks
These are the most common type of cufflinks. Bullet back cufflinks get their name the bullet shape of the toggle. The toggle folds into a hollow or split post. Making the post smaller or hollow allows the toggle to be larger without making things too clunky. The advantage of a larger toggle is that it can support more weight while fastened. More weight means a larger face. A larger face means room for more complicated designs. Bullet back cufflinks are great for events with dancing or other activities, as they are more secure. The tradeoff for security is that they are larger and more cumbersome.
Whale Back Cufflinks
Also named for the shape of the toggle, whale back cufflinks are much smaller than their bullet backed counterparts. The toggle and post are both thinner and fold to lie flat against one another. When you pull the toggle down, it looks like a whale tale. Whale back cufflinks are smaller than their bullet back counterparts. This makes them easier to handle and a better option for a more subtle accessory. However, because they are smaller, they can be less secure. Whale back cufflinks are great for formal events with less physical activity.
Studs do not have a toggle at all. Instead, studs are a solid, unmoving piece of jewelry. Like other types of cufflinks, studs have a face and a post, but instead of a toggle, there is a fixed tab. Studs are small enough that you can manipulate the tab through the holes of your cuff with no moving parts. You can find studs in a variety of materials aside from metal, unlike other cufflinks which require moving parts. A common alternative is silk knot studs. Silk knot studs are made of tightly braided silk or yarn. Silk knot studs are less formal than their metal counterparts but are also far more colorful. Silk knot studs are a fantastic choice for work attire or adding a playful pop of color to a semi-formal event. Metal studs are the smallest style of cufflinks. They are a great choice for very subtle accessories, but you will need to be more careful of them falling out.
Chain Linked Cufflinks
The oldest style of cufflinks and the ultimate sign of class, chain linked cufflinks have two heads which are connected by a tiny chain. To secure them, you manipulate one head and the chain through the holes in your shirt cuff. Because the chain can bend and twist, the heads can be larger than with a stud. A stud has a fixed post, meaning the fixed tab must be smaller in order for the stud to function. Both ends of a chain linked cufflinks have finished faces, designed for display. This differs from a stud which has a single face and a fixed tab. Chain linked cufflinks are a fantastic choice for white-tie events.
You may also find fabric face cufflinks. Fabric face cufflinks come in any of the previously mentioned styles. Fabric face cufflinks are any cufflinks where the face is a fabric pattern as opposed to an etched design or gemstone. Fabric face cufflinks have the advantage of more color and personality but are also less formal. They are a fantastic accessory for casual or office wear.
Finally, there are novelty cufflinks. Novelty cufflinks come in any style or design imaginable. Rather than being a distinct style of cufflinks, novelty refers to a kitschy or whimsical design. This is where you find your comedy cufflinks. You may find comedy and tragedy masks, clowns, party hats, or even pictures of your pet. Novelty cufflinks are not only a fun accessory but a fantastic conversation starter to add to any outfit. Consider novelty cufflinks in the shape of your company logo, fraternity symbol or the insignia of your favorite sports team. Novelty cufflinks can also have fun moving parts. Shake up your outfit with a pair of cufflinks that are also a functional hourglass, watch, or tiny working snow globe. The sky is truly the limit.
What Are Cufflinks And Where Do You Buy Them?
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Cufflinks are a fantastic way to personalize any formal or semi-formal ensemble. Cufflinks come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, so don't be afraid to experiment. Mix and match until you find your own personal style. Expensive cufflinks made of gold, sterling silver, and laden with gems are just as common as more affordable alternatives made of brass or aluminum. At a glance, polished brass cufflinks look very similar to their gold counterpart, so don't let price ranges intimidate you out of getting in on the cufflinks game.
You can buy cufflinks at a variety of different locations. Check out the jewelry section of any department store for cufflinks on the more wallet-friendly end of the scale. If money is no object and you are looking for artistry, check out your local standalone jeweler. Many jewelers will also take commissions for custom cufflinks. Custom jewelry can be more expensive, but prices vary depending on complexity and material. Don't be afraid to ask! If you have no jewelers in your area, consider looking in watch repair shops or similar establishments for alternatives.
And there you have it! A guide to a variety of different styles of cufflinks, when to wear them, how to wear them and what to wear them with.
Now you will never again have to ask, ‘What are cufflinks?'