Should I wear cufflinks in a business situation?

Should I wear cufflinks in a business situation?

Q. Do you think a man wearing cuff links in business situations looks stylish or comes off as affected?

A. Generally, cuff links are considered fashionable, rather than forced. Given that men have so few ways of wearing acceptable/appropriate items that can set them apart from the crowd, it would be a shame to dismiss out of hand the whole area of wearing cufflinks merely because they could conceivably be thought of as “showing off.” They are business-appropriate in any setting in which a suit or jacket and tie would be, as well as many others. 

Two elements can help you decide whether cuff links are right for you: your personal dressing taste/lifestyle, and your individual work environment. If your personality is to dress conservatively and traditionally, you are probably the button-down-collar type. Button-down shirts are not made with French cuffs; they have button cuffs (known as barrel-cuffs), thus, eliminating any cuff-link decisions. So these would be a significant departure for you. Perhaps even more important is whether they might be problematic in your workplace. If you have a boss who is the dress-down type – that is, if male, one who at most dresses in a tweed sports jacket and tie or even less formally – then, wearing a matched suit would put you one step above him. That may be fine if it seems to be showing respect for your job, or if others do the same. But wearing French cuff shirts moves you two steps up in formality (which may not be fine).

Cufflinks are basically somewhat dressy; they are worn on shirts with straight-point collars or spread collars. You could/would not wear them on a sport shirt or with an extremely casual combination. Nevertheless, cuff links do span varying degrees of formality:

  • Playful designs – These include automobiles, dogs, and sports motifs, perhaps in colorful enamel on gold or silver. Such designs are ideal for wear with navy blazers or with slightly dressy sports jackets (say, dark windowpane patterns or camel hair jackets) rather than with dressy pinstriped suits for boardroom- and important-meetings wear. 
  • Multi-purpose designs – Good-looking simple styles in gold, silver, or the inexpensive colored silk knot links can be worn for any occasion where cuff links are appropriate. They are guaranteed to be correct with a sports jacket, a blazer, or an elegant suit.
  • Formal wear, black-tie designs – Formal occasions are the only times that clear, glittery gem stones (such as diamonds, rubies, or sapphires) are considered to be in good taste for a man’s jewelry. The more usual styles include black onyx or white mother-of-pearl on gold and such opaque gem stones as jade (green) and lapis lazuli (blue). These opaque stones are proper for both black-tie attire and for normal wear with dark, dressy suits. Also fine for “dressing up” are the always-correct all-gold or all-silver links.                                                                                                                        

Men who like (and collect) cuff lines make it easy for others to buy them gifts. Prices can range from a few dollars to hundreds/thousands. For gift-giving occasions such as birthdays, graduation, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and such, partners love to give cuff links, especially ones that reflect the wearer’s personal individuality. One of the few gifts that require no inside knowledge about size, cuff links offer an opportunity for a friend to show an understanding of both of your tastes, and, thus, to reflect on the giver’s good judgement.                                                                                                            

A note of caution: Refined cuff links should be no larger than a dime. Nickel- and larger sizes tend to be tacky, almost – but not quite – as bad as diamond pinky rings.        

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