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The correct time to wear cufflinks

Updated on June 20, 2014

Let's make cufflinks popular again!

Cufflinks were once a fashion staple for well-dressed men in the United States and Europe, but for some reason they fell out of style in the 1970's and 1980's. They started to come back again in the 1990's, and now they're discovering a new resurgence in the 21st century. Your options are clear: either dig up your grandpa's old cufflinks and start wearing them or go out and buy more modern-styled cufflinks in simple styles like brushed stainless steel or titanium.

Some people only seem to know of cufflinks from that episode of The Simpsons where Homer tries to get his would-be son-in-law to wear his ugly family heirloom cufflinks with the two fat pigs on them. I'm going to show you that cufflinks don't have to be tacky and can really give you that "GQ look".

What you'll need: french cuffs

Most men never try wearing cufflinks because they don't have the appropriate shirt for them. You need to have a dress shirt with french cuffs. This means that the cuff around the wrist doesn't form a full circle with buttons holding it together. Instead, the two ends lay flat against one another and a cufflink is placed through a slot to hold the cuff closed.  

Buying cufflinks

You can buy cufflinks at a department store, online, or even at some jewelry stores for higher end pieces. Despite their classy appearance, you don't need to spend a fortune on cufflinks. For $40 or less you should be able to find cufflinks that look great and nobody will know how much you paid for them.

One tip: if you're going to wear a tie bar, try to match your cufflinks to that. For instance, if your tie bar is a polished black material, go for black cufflinks. Sometimes you can find tie bars and matching cufflinks being sold as a set.  

When can I wear cufflinks?

Cufflinks and french cuff shirts in general are considered formal and should be worn for formal occasions. They are very trendy at weddings, but they can also be worn at funerals as well. For a funeral I would suggest either black cufflinks or cufflinks that are a little less flashy. Unless you have a very formal work environment, cufflinks might seem out of place in the workplace. Investment banking might be one industry that still has french cuffs and cufflinks in the dress code, but I wouldn't expect to see them at an insurance company or even most non-corporate law firms.  

Types of cufflinks

There are several different types of cufflinks. Here are some:

  • Whale back. This type has a whale tail that flips on a hinge. Straighten it to insert it through the slot, then flip it out to secure the cufflink in place.
  • Bullet back. Similar to the whale back. A bullet shape piece swivels on a hinge to open and close the cufflink.
  • Fixed back. These are generally made with one piece of metal. No moving parts, which makes them more difficult to put on, but some people prefer that their cufflinks not have moving parts.
  • Chain link. These will have some sort of ornamentation to display on the outside and then a chain connecting to a ball on the other end. These are considered traditional and are hard to put on but do provide a looser cuff.
  • Reversible. These have ornamentation on both sides. I'm not really a huge fan of these, because from the wrong angle it looks like your put your cufflinks on backwards if it's hard to tell that it's a reversible. Also, make sure you have the same side sticking out on each arm, or people will think you've been mixing and matching, which is a fashion no-no.
  • Ball return. Ornamentation on one side and a large gold or silver ball on the other. These are nice because each side has something pleasant to look at while at the same time it's obvious that one side is the front and the other is the back.  

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