The Working Man: To Bling or Not to Bling? Cufflinks and Their History in the Workplace

by Rachel Yeomans | November 9th, 2011   
By Alan Neff

Today, we speak of men’s jewelry.  We ask, “To bling…or not to bling?  That is the question.”

Okay, perhaps it isn’t of Shakespearean magnitude, but it works for us.

Picture 29 The Working Man: To Bling or Not to Bling? Cufflinks and Their History in the Workplace

Until recently, when men considered adding shiny, eye-catching jeweled/precious-metal accessories to their wardrobes, they confined their choices to cufflinks, tie bars, tie tacks, tie-chains, watch fobs, wristwatches, school rings, and Phi Beta Kappa keys.  More recently, the roster of accessories has expanded to include bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and piercings.

In traditional workplaces, wearing only traditional accessories remains the norm, if not an outright rule.  Oh, I suppose you could stroll into a large law firm on a workday looking like Jack Sparrow, but you’d better be a male-stripper, an “Occupy Wall Street” protester, or a contender for the “Best Costume” Prize at the annual Halloween party.  If you’re none of the above, execute a sharp 180-degree turn and get out before Security arrives, because Security will arrive, and the ensuing fracas might be painful.

Cowboy with Jewelry The Working Man: To Bling or Not to Bling? Cufflinks and Their History in the Workplace

If you want to add accessories to your wardrobe, the usual places to start probably are cufflinks or tie-anchors.  For practical reasons, you might want to start with the latter. If you lose a tie-anchor, you replace it or go without.  Ties still work without them.

Cufflinks – which entered men’s dress inventory by the early 18th century – come in pairs, because shirts generally require two of them.  And, shirts that require cufflinks don’t have cuff-buttons. Here we encounter the logistical risk with cufflinks: if you commit to them, you can quickly wind up with only one, if you’re absent-minded or otherwise negligent with small items.  And, if you wind up with one, you have a useless cufflink and one or more useless shirts – unless you buy multiple pairs of cufflinks.
Picture 28 The Working Man: To Bling or Not to Bling? Cufflinks and Their History in the Workplace

So…with cufflinks, you have to plan for the possibility that you will have only one when you need two, unless you have at least four.  Cufflinks are the classic case of “In for a penny, in for a pound”.

If you buy one set of cufflinks, you might want to buy two.  And, if you buy shirts without cuff-buttons, buy a couple with them.
By the way, this is how insurance works, and you know how much you like that.
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