Rediscover classic “cuff buttons” [ Part 1 of 5 ]


Series : Wearing It On the Sleeve

Demand for antique and estate cufflinks is booming, as casual workplaces spawn a countertrend toward dressing up, and men (and women) rediscover classic “cuff buttons.”

By Cathleen McCarthy

Cufflinks have been riding the tide of men’s fashion since the reign of Louis XIV, when ruffles evolved into wristbands. At first, men used ribbons to fasten their cuffs, as they did their collars, but they soon discarded cuff strings for more versatile linked buttons. (To this day, the French call cufflinks boutons de manchette, or “cuff buttons.”)

There’s more demand for antique and estate cufflinks today than there’s been in decades. “The craze started about 10 years ago,” says Millicent Safro, co-owner of Tender Buttons in New York City, which began carrying cufflinks after customers asked her to convert the store’s antique buttons into sleeve-wear. Now the store carries cufflinks of all eras, from the Victorian to the flamboyant 1960s.

“There’s not a lot of jewelry men can wear, so cufflinks in general are always very collectible,” says Stephen Russell, who sells antique cufflinks at his shop in Manhattan‘s Trump Tower . But it’s not only men who are searching for the perfect link. Eugene Klompus, founder of the National Cuff Link Society and publisher of The Link, a collectors’ magazine, says 30% of his members are women, and their numbers are growing rapidly. When Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton University, her mother bought her a pair of 1960s gold cufflinks in the form of high-heeled pumps at Tender Buttons—a tongue-in-cheek symbol of the passage into womanhood.

Nevertheless, cufflinks make up one of the few jewelry categories that remain primarily a man’s domain. Women often purchase cufflinks for themselves but more often buy them for the men in their lives, says Safro. “There is very little jewelry a woman can buy for a man other than a ring or a watch,” she notes. She describes her male cufflink buyers as “businessmen, professionals, doctors—men who care about how they dress and appear. You have to be careful not to appear overdressed today, but there are men, as there are women, who care very much about how they look.”

To be continue … watch for next posting.
Cathleen McCarthy, a Philadelphia freelance writer, specializes in articles about jewelry design, collectibles, retailing, and travel.

Adwin Ang
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