Cufflinks, decorative clips used to fasten a buttonless or French cuff on a dress shirt or blouse, have been around since the early 16th century, when gentlemen would tie the wristbands of their shirts with "cuff strings." During the reign of Louis XIV, this evolved into the practice of fastening shirt sleeves with boutons de manchette, or "sleeve buttons," pairs of colored glass beads linked with a short chain. In the early 18th century, these were broadly replaced with decoratively painted or jeweled studs connected by a gold chain.
Although the history of the cufflink would suggest that it has grown progressively more baroque and ornate over time, cufflinks in contemporary usage vary greatly from the gold and gaudy, to the toned-down and minimalist, to the novel and deliberately ironic.
Varieties of cufflink.
Fastening and wearing a pair of cufflinks is easy. Just straighten the swivel bar of the link, thread it through both slits in your cuff, and turn it sideways again to lock the sleeve into place. It's almost suspiciously simple—but who ever said a gentleman's style had to be complicated?
Readers looking for a somewhat funkier alternative to the cufflink might consider the braided silk knot, colloquially known as "monkey fists," which have been a fad in Europe since their introduction in Paris during the early 20th century: