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15 Cuff Link Designs (and How to Choose)

Pair of rectangular gold cuff links

Cuff links are the pinnacle of elegant men's eveningwear: these glittering accessories can be formal and sophisticated or quirky and personalized, but there is more to wearing them than simply slipping them into place.

About Cuff Links

These small fasteners first came into fashion in the 17th century, replacing the more tedious process of using coordinating string or ribbon to bind cuffs together. Both functional and ornamental, links were used to demonstrate style, social status, and wealth, though today's myriad designs can be far more individualized.

In the second half of the twentieth century, clothing manufacturers began mass-producing dress shirts with attached buttons, making many separate links obsolete. Gradually, however, the collectible nature of the links and their appeal for individualization of otherwise predictable wardrobes resulted in a resurgence of innovative designs. Today, thousands of different types of links are available.

Popular Designs

Cuff links come in a nearly endless array of styles, shapes, colors, and themes. Popular design options include:

  • Abstract Shapes: Rectangles, ovals, squares, and circles of fine metals, possibly inlaid with polished wood, porcelain, or contrasting metals.
  • Gemstones: Polished (not faceted) gemstones such as sapphires, rubies, onyx, emeralds, and mother-of-pearl.
  • Engraved: Monograms, symbols, or special sentiments can be etched onto the stud.
  • Military and Political: Branch seals, flags, presidential seals, bullets, etc.
Novelty train link.
  • Functional: Links that actually have dual purposes, such as miniature watches, thermometers, calendars, pill capsules, or compasses.
  • Sports: Golf balls, miniature figurines, team logos, sporting equipment, etc.
  • Designer: Elite designers often offer stylish links, such as Cartier or Tiffany jewelry lines.
  • Careers: Computers, nuts and bolts, the caduceus, law scales, dollar signs, etc.
  • Special Occasions: Links with designated bridal party roles, holiday themes, etc.
  • Hobbies: Food and drink motifs, gambling (dice, roulette wheels, cards, etc.), tools, cars, bikers, and more.
  • Celebrities: Miniature works of art portraying famous celebrities or replicas of celebrity-inspired styles.
  • Knots: Twisted metals, possibly with contrasting colors.
  • Religion: Crosses or other religious symbols.
  • Animals: Dogs, cats, horses, fish, deer, etc.
  • Organizations: Symbols and logos for college alumni, professional organizations, and other associations.

Some specialty designers also offer links that are completely customized, either with monograms, inset photographs, or other personalized details.

Choosing a Style

With so many styles available, it can be a challenge to choose the best cuff links. Naturally, not all styles are appropriate for all occasions, and men should choose which pair to wear based on a number of factors, such as:

  • The event to be attended. A formal occasion, such as a wedding, awards luncheon, funeral, or interview requires a more subdued style of link that will not be distracting or disrespectful. Similarly, holiday parties or other festivities may call for more colorful, informal links.
  • The attire to be worn. More casual clothes pair well with unique or novelty links, while tuxedos or expensive suits are best worn with more elegant link designs.
  • Size of link. A very large link can be distracting and may be awkward depending on the occasion. Smaller studs are more appropriate for subdued occasions.
  • Clothing coordination. A colored link is a brilliant accent to a monotone suit, and links can also be color-coordinated with the appropriate tie or shirt.

All other factors aside, which link to choose comes down to personal preference. Just like earrings, necklaces or other jewelry, links add personal flair to any outfit, and choosing a design that highlights the wearer's personality is sure to be suitable.

Wearing Cuff Links

Because buttons are now more common and links are not always part of a gentlemen's wardrobe, some men can be mystified about how to wear them. For a flawless appearance, consider these general guidelines:

  1. The decorated portion of the link (if only one side is decorative) should be on the outside of the cuff when the arm is hanging at the side.
  2. Cuffs are traditionally pinned edge-to-edge so they form a point, but overlapping the cuff is also acceptable in all but the most formal circumstances.
  3. The shaft of the link fits through the cuff's holes, and the back is secured to keep the link from moving. Some links have removable backs - if this is the case, it should be fastened tightly to avoid slackness.

Giving Links as Gifts

Cuff links make wonderful gifts, particularly for men who may be just building a wardrobe. Links are a popular gift for groomsmen at a wedding because they can then be worn for the festivities, giving everyone a coordinated look, or they make an admirable father's day gift. College graduates or recently promoted businessmen may also appreciate a gift of a new pair of links to use in their new roles.

Finding Links

Most retailers offer a selection of links based on the overall quality of the store. Designer stores naturally offer more expensive, high-quality pieces, while simple links can be found even at discount stores. Online jewelry stores are great resources for unusual or personalized designs. Merchants offering a tremendous online selection include:

Add a Touch of Class

Cuff links are a stylish accessory for any occasion. Whether it's a classic, abstract design or a wacky and outrageous theme, links are a great way to personalize any look with class.

15 Cuff Link Designs (and How to Choose)