Traditionally, cufflinks and French cuff shirts (a shirt with a double cuff that can be folded back and tied with a cufflink) were reserved for CEO’s and the top executives within a company. If you weren’t in a position of authority, French cuff shirts worn with cufflinks were considered pretentious.
This doesn’t apply today. And don’t listen to people that tell you that you can only wear cufflinks if you are wearing formal neckwear – they’re wrong. Today, men have a lot more leeway in their attire choices, and I think the choice of French cuffs and cufflinks is a great personal choice – whether you’re a CEO making millions or an intern eating ramen noodles for dinner (so you can save money for cufflinks, of course).
With the variety in sizes, textures, patterns, and material choices of today’s cufflinks, it can be hard to know how to match a set of cufflinks to your outfit. I don’t believe in a standard set of rules that apply to everyone, but here are a few rules I’ve developed for myself:
Always wear a blazer / jacket when wearing cufflinks. I simply don’t like the look of a French cuff shirt worn outside of a blazer. If you aren’t wearing a blazer, but you’re wearing French cuffs, ditch the cufflinks and roll up your sleeves a little. (This obviously isn’t appropriate in every occasion).
Don’t worry about the lack of formal neckwear when wearing cufflinks. French cuffs look great under a jacket, whether you’re wearing a tie or not. In my opinion, wearing cufflinks without a tie is a subtle way to show your style without looking too formal.
Don’t wear sport or hobby themed cufflinks. I equate this to wearing an obnoxious sport-themed tie. I prefer non-themed cufflinks that use texture, material, and pattern in interesting ways instead.
Wear cufflinks with a small amount of bright color if the rest of your outfit is simple and monochromatic, (unless it’s a formal occasion). You can also wear colored cufflinks if you’re matching them to the colors in your shirt or jacket. These cufflinks from Joseph Abboud look great when paired with a white shirt and black jacket, and even better with a black shirt and black jacket.
Consider the overall “feel” of the outfit. Are you dressed like a CEO today, or do you look like an artist at a young design agency? Perhaps your outfit has a slight rock star vibe to it. You can (and should) accentuate these styles with cufflinks. These cufflinks from Kenneth Cole come in a classic shape, but the studded sides add both visual interest and a subtle sense of attitude to your outfit.
Consider the texture / pattern of the cufflinks. You can match the pattern to your shirt or jacket, or you can go in the opposite direction. I tend to choose more stylized cufflinks when my jacket is simple, and subtle cufflinks when my jacket is patterned. Neither way is right or wrong, but what you choose will make a statement. This also applies to the material of the cufflinks. If you want to be safe, you can match the materials of your tie bar, belt, jacket buttons, and shoe hardware to your cuff links. However, I recommend mixing patterns and materials for visual interest – just remember to consider how all of the different materials / textures will work together.
Instead of always choosing metal cufflinks, try some detailed semi-precious stone cufflinks. They can be more expensive than pure metal, but are definitely worth it. The solid black cufflinks (upper photo) from David Yurman are crafted from onyx and make a bold, yet sophisticated statement. They also look good with most other accessories. The pixel-pattern cufflinks (lower photo) are made by Canalli, and are also created from onyx. These cufflinks are created by piecing together small squares of stone in varying shades of black and blue. You can find them and many other great cufflinks at cufflinks.com.
Just remember – use cufflinks as a subtle extension of your personality, and consider how they fit into your entire outfit. To successfully do this, you should constantly add to and update your collection. I recommend David Yurman, Joseph Abboud, Kenneth Cole, Thomas Pink, John Hardy, and a variety of great styles that can be found at Cufflinks.com if you’re looking to add some distinct cufflinks to your collection.