Men: Express Yourself with Cufflinks

This is the latest installment of Dress for Success, Lawyerist’s column on fashion for lawyers, written by Staci Zaretsky and Josh Camson.

In my humble opinion, the key to being considered “well-dressed” is standing out from the crowd enough that people take notice, yet avoiding the appearance that you don’t fit in. cufflinks are a simple yet classy way to not only stand out a bit, but express yourself more than you can with a tie. Read on to find out where to get them, how to wear them, and why cufflinks can be the most fun a lawyer has with his outfit.


There are a lot of different styles, shapes, and prices to cufflinks. I own cufflinks that cost fifteen dollars, but on the other side of the spectrum, there are cufflinks worth over $400,000. Assuming you aren’t going to inherit those cufflinks from the new royal couple, you need someplace to buy cufflinks. Obviously the internet is a great start. You can find fun cufflinks between fifteen and fifty dollars pretty readily online. I also love department stores or outlets. They often don’t have a very wide selection, but they will likely have one reasonably priced pair that you like.

In order to wear the cufflinks, you need a shirt with the proper holes. These are called link cuffs. Essentially, instead of a button there is a hole for a cufflink. The sleeve should be pinched together with the outer sides of the sleeve facing away from each other. Thus you should be able to see both the front and back of the cufflink. Neither side should be against your skin like with a traditional button cuff. You’ve probably heard of the French cuff. These are the exact same thing but the length of the cuff is doubled and you fold the material back over itself before inserting the cufflink. I like the look of a French cuff, but sometimes the cuffs get a little too big and unwieldy, so be careful of which suit you are wearing the shirt with.

It’s unlikely that you get to express your interests or hobbies very much with your tie or suit. Sure, there are novelty ties out there with anything you could imagine on them, but how long will your initial client meeting last if you’re wearing a Looney Tunes tie? cufflinks allow you to push the limits a little bit, while not looking overly silly. A Superman tie? Wholly unacceptable. But a pair of Batman cufflinks? I call it geek chic.

So go ahead. Pick up a couple link cuff shirts and learn to express yourself a little bit.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jf-sebastian/2681172553/)

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  • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com BL1Y

    To recap: Cufflinks should be worn with shirts made to have cufflinks, and you can buy them at stores.

    For people actually interested in venturing into this realm, the big thing you need to know about is the silk knot cufflink. http://www.us.thomaspink.com/fcp/product/thomas%20pink/Cufflinks/Deep-Red-Pink-and-Red-Oversized-%273-Way%27-Cuff-Knots/4785
    With these, it’s easy to collect a bunch in a wide range of colors to match any shirt or tie you have. Seems like a great idea, but it’s not. They are an absolute pain to put on, so unless you have a very supportive and patient significant other, you’re going to be showing up at the office at least a half hour late and more pissed off than usual.

    Go for cufflinks with hinges. http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=558797&CategoryID=47702#fn=sp%3D1%26spc%3D64
    You straight the hinge, push it through, turn it back to hold it in place. It’s so easy to put on that it’s actually easier than buttoning your shirt sleeve.

    There’s a couple other varieties with varying degrees of difficulty in use, so just keep that in mind when you’re shopping. For higher end cufflinks, your best bet is going to be Thomas Pink. http://www.us.thomaspink.com/pws/images/catalogue/products/80310138V2X/product/80310138V2X.jpg I have these in pink mother of pearl, and they’re fantastic.

    Also, be sure to get yourself a cufflink box. Doesn’t need to be fancy, but you’re making an investment in jewelry, and you don’t want them getting scratched or dinged.

    And, whenever you do happen to reach for those Batman cufflinks or whatever quirky thing you’re in to, remember the words of Leonardo da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/joshcamson/ Josh Camson

      Thanks for the input. I literally buy all mine from department stores, the Van Heusen outlets, and novelty online places.

      I didn’t mention the silk options because I agree they’re a huge pain, and not worth it in my opinion. But I appreciate you pointing that out so people don’t make the error.

  • Mike

    If you’ve got a good alteration shop, you can get the cuff button on any shirt replaced with a button hole reasonably inexpensively. Wear cuff links with any shirt.

    I inherited a case of cufflinks from my dad when he passed away – very classy looking 1950s styles. Many of them were parts of sets with tie pins (which I haven’t worked up the nerve to wear yet).

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/joshcamson/ Josh Camson

      Mike,

      I’ve only ever purchased shirts made for cuff links. I will definitely be investigating this option. Thanks for the tip!

    • http://www.constitutionaldaily.com BL1Y

      You can also just get your scissors, cut off the button, and then use your letter opener to punch a hole in the sleeve. This is known as the Costanza Cuff.

      • howard

        Wow! I might just give that a shot…or go to a tailor and have him do it.

        I’m seeing less n’ less french cuff shirts and with a 18-1/2 neck and a 34 sleeve, I’m getting stuck with Trump shirts @ Macy’s!

        Shoot a picture of one of your “modifications” — I wonder how it REALLY will look…lol.

  • http://ethicsmaven.com/ Eric Cooperstein

    The silk knot cufflinks are nice when you know you’re going to ditch your jacket and tie and want a more informal look. But, yes, they can be a pain to put on. Especially the larger ones. Don’t buy those.

    • howard

      Those knot cufflinks of ANY size are a pain in the posterior to put on — don’t even think ’bout it if ur runnin’ late in the morn’. I don’t use mine unless I really have/want to!

  • http://thompsonhall.com/ Aaron Hall, Minneapolis Lawyer

    Does anyone think that cufflinks are pretentious or “old school?”

    Aaron

    • howard

      @Aaron: I am not an attorney, but I used to sell to you folks. I was a salesmen predominently in the IBM-look days (you know, dark thin-striped suit w/ vest.) Since we corporate sales execs all dressed nearly alike (e.g., penquins), I used to use unique cufflinks to stand out (since as someone posted earlier, ties were a bit too much in one’s face and often looked too cutesy, i.e., theme ties for St. Pat’s.)

      So my compass or tiny watch cufflinks (“Hey, do those really work?!”) were conversation starters…and didn’t stand out too blantantly with my buttoned down ‘vested’ look.

      Then recently, after coming full circle back to a PR-related position, I was reading that some European bank, of all folks, had a “dress for success” manual which pointedly told their personnel NOT to wear french cuff shirts.

      When I inquired of a tailor, thinking that the look certainly was class old-fashioned for a banker, he added that it was now considered too (my words) “pretentious or formal” looking…attention-getting.” I guess casual Fridays has done that.

      However, I always felt that “style” was of one’s choosing. I refuse to dress like others (w/o being eccentric) and if braces and the occasional vest work for you, go for it.

      However, I suppose what my manager once told me applies to attorneys in firms: Look at what your boss (or key decisionmakers among my clients) wear — dress like them (to create identity/relationship.) That’s was okay when others were dressing somewhat similar, and I just added a bit of class (cuffs) with a dash of whimsy (my links), but in this day n’ age of a vastly different style, perhaps I’m out of step.

      What say all you young-er men out there?