When it comes to everyday accessories, men have few options — there’s the tie, the watch, the briefcase. But there’s an old favorite in the dresser drawer worth reconsidering: the cuff link.
These fashion statements of the wrist are making a comeback. They’re being worn day and night and by everyone from college students to older men for whom dressing up never went out of style. Women are wearing them too.
Gov. Rick Perry wore a prominent pair of cuff links with a crisp white shirt as he signed a bill for incentives for Texas film and video game projects. But cuff links are not just for the usual suspects (read: politicians, lawyers and other white-collar professionals).
“Cuff links are always in,” says Bozhena Orekhova, GQ’s accessories editor. “They are one of the accessories that men can wear, like watches. It shows a lot about your manners and how seriously you take your style.”
Cuff links came into play in the 1600s when the flamboyant King Charles II of England made popular a shirt with a lacy front and matching cuffs. (Charles had grown tired of using ribbon to tie his cuffs.) They might have had their peak in the 1960s and ’70s, but there has been a recent surge in interest in them as a key men’s accessory. Style influences from celebrities such as designer Tom Ford and singer Justin Timberlake, who are pushing gentlemanly looks, indicate that cuff links will be hot for a while.
Prices range from a few bucks for a thrift-store find to thousands of dollars.
Fall style forecasts at Neiman Marcus, which sells cuff links from John Hardy, King Baby and others, show French cuffs and cuff links will be must-haves as more professionalmen — or men simply looking to stand out in a sea of button-up shirts and jeans — return to dressing up.
“By looking at a person’s cuff links, you can tell a person’s resume,” Orekhova says. “It’s one of the important men’s accessories. It’s something that will always be there and stay there. Since the English gentleman is back in style, people are trying to capitalize on that and design things that capture it.”
Recently, jewelry designers have turned to non-traditional cuff link materials such as bone, rubber, titanium, wood and various gemstones.
Styles vary from the kitschy and comical (martini glasses and water faucet knobs) to the luxurious (David Yurman’s black diamond cuff links).
Lance Avery Morgan embraces this resurgence.
Morgan’s cuff-link collection, including ones handed down from his father and grandfather, numbers about 150 pairs – – and it gets larger with each gift from a friend.
“I’ll wear French cuffs on any day that ends in a Y,” says Morgan, publisher and editorial director of the Texas lifestyle magazine Brilliant. A few months ago, he went to Tahiti, where he went diving for black pearls. The pearls are being set for cuff links, of course.
“I have as many cuff links as I do moods,” he says. “We live in this age when men take care of themselves but don’t look at the details.”
That means breaking out his more unusual cuff links. They have the power to be conversation pieces, he says.
“I love that I can take a regular pair of tattered jeans and a white shirt and a pair of loafers and do a day or evening look with the right cuff links,” says Morgan, who has dreams of one day designing his own line.
“It’s a gift that offers a legacy. I don’t know anyone who has thrown away a pair of cuff links.”
Mousumi Shaw, founder of jewelry studio Sikara & Co. on Rio Grande Street, is planning to expand her cuff link offerings. She already carries designs from European, Latin American and American jewelry makers.
The new tie
Cuff links are the new tie when it comes to men’s accessories, she says.
This summer, she plans to add a line of cuff links from designers in India.
“India has never been known for cuff link design,” she says. “And now we have a new gemstone line, and we have some more industrial designs that we’re bringing up. There’s a renewed desire for men to accessorize.”
At jewelry store Rewards at the Arboretum, owner Russell Stromberg says his cuff-link business steadily has increased year after year.
With the global economy, he says American men are trying to dress up like their European counterparts. He says casual days in Austin might be slowing as more men want to return to French cuffs and cuff links.
“It makes them feel better about themselves,” he says.