WHAT do the Milan fashion houses, a hard-drinking womaniser, a shameless dandy, foul-mouthed pirate and the King of Cool all have in common?
They all loved wearing cufflinks and, at different times in history, their appreciation for the most subtle of all jewellery has pushed the designer cufflink to the very heights of high fashion.
The enormous popularity of cufflinks in 2012 has ensured that no self respecting man about town would be seen dead in a finely tailored outfit without French cuffs and subtle custom cufflinks.
Ermenegildo Zegna, Ferragamo, Zilli, Dolce and Gabbana and Burberry are just a few of the top fashion houses who have embraced cufflinks with their fine efforts gracing the catwalks over the last three seasons.
The subtlety of wearing semi-hidden jewellery is what many fashionistas acknowledge as the reason fashion keeps coming back to cufflinks.
Others argue passionately that it is the subtlety and versatility of customised cufflinks that means cufflinks are so eternally stylish that they actually transcend fashion.
Whichever argument you subscribe to its undeniably true that throughout time the taste of icons as diverse as Steve McQueen and Louis XIV has pushed cufflinks back into the fashion spotlight.
- The King of Cool. When Steve McQueen starred as the Saville Row-suited master criminal in The Thomas Crown Affair he cut a dash that few have ever bettered.
Such was the reaction to his character’s appearance upon the film’s release in 1968 that city department stores across the US began to rapidly sell out of men’s gold cufflinks.
In fact McQueen’s endorsement of custom cufflinks helped ensure that the 1960s was the greatest period in history for designer cufflinks for men.
- A tiny, unheralded cable TV show would reprise Thomas Crown’s impeccable style some forty years later in the shape of Mr Don Draper.
The Mad Men character is the epitome of the smooth 60s ladies man, his hard living and relentless womanising throughout the show’s run is achieved, without exception, in a wardrobe sporting the finest threads and exquisitely shot French cuffs.
- Clothes loving gentlemen these may be but they pale to insignificance when placed beside the extraordinary form of France’s King Louis XIV (1638-1715.)
It was this ultra-extravagant Sun King, the man who built the extraordinary Palace Of Versailles, who decided the idea of ‘precious metals that link the cuffs’ was nothing short of perfection.
He set an example by wearing all of his shirts with white gold cufflinks and his Royal court, the other royal courts of Europe and every self respecting nobleman, serf, peasant and worldly wannabe anywhere followed his example for almost fifty years.
- Even before King Louis, the notorious pirate, Captain William Kidd, the terror of the high seas and original pirate of the Caribbean set a high benchmark for novelty cufflinks.
The good Cap’n set an outrageous fashion precedent when he had the thumb bones of a slain foe turned into cufflinks to serve forever as a warning to those who might dare cross him.
It seems therefore, that high style and high fashion have always been accommodating to those stylish gentleman determined to distinguish themselves from the ordinary type.
The question of which pair of cufflinks will best define your sense of fashion and high style will be easily answered read our eGuide The Style Lover’s Guide to Choosing and Caring for Cufflinks.