Swank Retro Cufflinks an American Icon

Published: 15th August 2007
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Swank Inc a popular designer and manufacturer of men's cufflinks were incorporated on April 17, 1936. When Cufflinks peaked in the 1960's they were making 12 million a year.
Even though these were aimed at the lowest end of the market, retailing for an average of $2.50 a pair, that still adds up to a lot of men wearing cufflinks. These days the figure is closer to 200,000, but cufflinks are making a strong comeback with gross sales having increased consistently over the last ten years, while the French cuff continues to be the most prestigious type of shirt.

Every significant movement in art can be traced through the design of cufflinks. A prime example is the art deco era of the 20's and 30's, one of the most popular forms used and even in modern times sought after by collectors.

The resurgent popularity of cufflinks in recent years inspired businessman Claude Jeanloz to open The Cufflink Museum in Conway, New Hampshire, in the late 1990's. Jeanloz, who obtained his first pair as a confirmation gift from his godmother, began collecting cufflinks in the mid 1960s. After amassing a large number of them, he decided to establish the Cufflink Museum, which features over 70,000 pairs on display in 10,000 square feet - by far the largest collection in the world. Also on display are cufflink memorabilia such as vintage cufflink ads, photos and even album covers featuring performers wearing cufflinks like The Beatles and Bob Dylan, "did you say Bob Dylan"?

The general history of cufflinks is short, but sweet and reads rich of historic anecdotes. The Roaring 20's were probably the height of cuff-link invention. Manufacturers created a variety of devices and designs to do one simple thing: allow a man to insert and remove his cufflinks with a minimum of difficulty and a maximum of security. Now there are a wide variety of mechanisms for open and closing cufflinks - some feature the classic flip-hinge; others twist off, or just button through. And then there is the sophistication of wrap around cufflinks, which are making a big comeback.

Swank happened along at the right time to take full advantage. Prior to the 1920's, Cufflinks were made affordable to the common man, thanks to the industrial revolution, mass producing and the development of electroplating. Around the same time removable starched cuffs and collars were introduced. Almost every major U.S. business company during the first half of the twentieth century commissioned cufflinks either for advertising purposes or as gift incentives for employees or executives.

2007 sees the retro trend broadening through all facets of the fashion industry and there is a growing demand for cufflinks from the 20's to 70's. Swank cufflinks of those eras are back in vogue just like they were in days gone by. There is even a Savile Row tailor rumoured to have bought some of Swank Inc retro designs for reproducing and re-labelling.

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