Until the waistcoat fell out of favour the shirt was treated as an undergarment with very little of it actually showing. Where the shirt was exposed it was ornamented with the cravat or tie at the neck, and at the wrist with various types of fastening. Before the invention of the cufflink, shirt sleeves were simply tied at the cuff by ribbon. The introduction of the French cuff lifted the cufflink from the sphere of practicality to personal adornment, mainly because royalty usually sported these ornate cuff fasteners. In the late 1700s new link styles appeared; these were soon adopted by the middle classes and tradesmen. By the early nineteenth century cufflinks were mostly found in the form of gold, silver, or pearl buttons held together by a brass chain.
The roaring ‘20s were probably the height of cufflink invention. Manufacturers created a variety of devices and designs to do one simple thing: to permit a man to insert and remove his cufflinks with minimum difficulty and maximum security. In the 1950s the stirrup link enjoyed some popularity – a curved bar encircling the cuff from one side to the other. Later, the solid T-bar link was devised, still by far the most popular design in use today. Cufflinks have continued to grow in popularity year on year and are available in a wide range of prices and styles, from chic and sophisticated to novelty.