by Maressa Tosto Merwarth
Cufflinks have traditionally been thought of as a functional button substitute on the ever-confounding French cuff shirt worn only in formal situations. But these once bourgeois pieces of hardware are now easily the every-man’s accessory. Whether playful and bold or classic and understated, there is a cufflink for every occasion. More precisely, there is a cufflink for no occasion at all.
Step One: Get the Right Shirt for Cufflinks
First you need to find a French cuff shirt. While these used to only be available in a standard white tuxedo shirt, French cuffs are now available on almost every button-down out there.
Even better, any tailor can easily (and inexpensively) change the cuffs on your favorite shirt into a French cuff in order to give you the cufflink option without needing to change your wardrobe.
Step Two: Finding the Perfect Cufflinks
Stepping into the sea of these accessories can be completely overwhelming — so many choices! What do I look for? How do I know if it is junk or good quality? Have no fear - no matter what your budget, you can dip your toe in and start with a few basics until you are ready to branch out.
First, a set of silk knots. These are small, lightweight, fabric cufflinks usually sold in sets with two or three different colors for around $20. They provide a little pop of color and they are super easy to put on.
Next, a pair of classic, heirloom quality cufflinks. Depending on your budget, these can be anywhere from $75 to several thousand dollars based on the material you chose. Whether you decide on a monogrammed set or just a classic beveled shape, the key is to get a pair that is made from a fine metal, like gold or silver, and not made of a base metal. This ensures they will last for generations if you wanted to pass them along.
Lastly, buy a set of cufflinks that are just for fun. Maybe deep down you never outgrew your superhero phase, or you still love to play with LEGOS (even though you claim you buy them for your kids) — go ahead and show a little personality on your wrist. If they flash out from a sport coat sleeve or spark a conversation, they should be uniquely you.
Step Three: Match Your Cufflinks and Outfit
Now wear your cufflinks. You have the shirt. You have the cufflinks. Simple enough, right? But just in case you still are a little gun-shy about how and when to bring out your new acquisitions, here are a few ideas:
1. Cufflinks and Shorts
This unlikely pairing is my favorite for summer and with only a few more weeks left, why not give it a shot. Throw on your favorite summer-weight gingham plaid button down and a pair of nice plain front shorts, and done. Dare I say even keep your shirt untucked while sporting the cufflinks?! I promise no fashion police will arrest you.
2. Cufflinks and Jeans
The mix of casual and formal is a favorite of hipsters everywhere and good for any time of year. Whether you are headed to dinner with friends or grabbing a drink on a first date, this look is perfectly balanced and versatile no matter what the day (or night) has in store.
3. Cufflinks and Sports Coat
As we head into more business casual territory, cufflinks with a sports coat give you a chance to stand out in an otherwise unremarkable area of dress. So take those fun cufflinks for a spin and use them as a conversation starter at a dreaded company mixer. Or keep it more traditional and bring a pop of color to the basic blue blazer with some silk knot cufflinks.
4. Cufflinks and Suit
Of course this one is the most obvious, but this is where you should challenge yourself to not fall into the same old boring routine of formality. Skip the tie with your suit and make your cufflinks the star accessory. Change out the standard plain white shirt for one with a great pattern or texture (and of course French cuffs) and keep it classic with the heirloom quality cufflinks.
Now that you are armed with your new knowledge (and accessories), go forth and spread the good word : cufflinks are for everyone.
After completing her BFA at Syracuse University, Maressa Tosto Merwarth began working at a small fine jewelry manufacturer and later earned her MFA in metals from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Drawn to commonplace shapes and materials and inspired by nature and architecture, the designer stretched her creativity to imagine hidden stories in her designs. After several years in the industry, Merwarth formed her own company, Mari Tome, to focus on custom, unique design and her art-based jewelry line.