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From the Archives

Elisabeth Bramford, School Archivist explores the history of cufflinks

There is an item of men’s fashion that was once common and popular, and even necessary, that is now mostly found at formal events and worn by those that have a taste for them. This item is the cufflink. We have a fair few styles of cufflinks produced by St Peter’s College in the archive, and seeing them piqued my curiosity and led me on a hunt to find out more about the history of cufflinks. And now, dear reader, I will share that rabbit hole with you.

Cufflinks first appeared on the cuffs of the wealthy during the reign of King Louis XIV of France in the 17th century. These early cufflinks were made of two buttons that were attached to a chain to keep the cuffs of men’s sleeves together. Previously, and continued by the poor, this had been done with ribbons or strings. This new, lavish style combined practicality and fashion. Though they were incepted in the 17th century, it wasn’t until the 18th century that they really became popular, worn by the wealthy for special occasions and events, most commonly those hosted by royalty. The designs became increasingly lavish and became a display of wealth and importance.

By the 20th century, cufflinks became a staple of men’s attire. An increasingly wide variety of styles developed many made of cheaper and more affordable materials. Their prominence and commonplace made them the most common gift for any man. Styles ranged from applicable for everyday wear to business and formal wear. They peaked in the 1950s when it was common for men to accessorise their daily outfit with items such as a tie pin or clip, a watch, a ring, a money clip, a cigarette case and cufflinks.

Buttons started to be more commonly added to the cuffs of clothes in the 60s and 70s, resulting in the steady decline of the cufflink's popularity in favour of the more convenient sewed-in buttons. But cufflinks didn't fade out. They have almost come full circle, being worn more as a fashionable accessory, most commonly at formal events. They have again become a statement piece, rather than an item of convenience. 

Is there something you are curious about regarding school history? Contact the archivist! 

A range of SPOC merchandise including cufflinks are available for purchase here -

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