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Recreating the Past
Vintage Etiquette
Vintage Tailcoats and Tuxedos
Vintage Waist Coverings
Vintage Shirts
Vintage Neckwear
Vintage Footwear
Vintage Accessories
Vintage Outerwear
Vintage Warm-Weather
Vintage Evening Weddings
Retro Evening Wear






Stud Mechanics



The spring-back style of cufflink was patented in 1890 by Larter and Sons. The thinner half of the backing is pushed into the thicker half to create a J-shaped backing that is slipped through the shirt's button hole. Once let go the backing springs back to full length.

Larter contemporary Krementz patented their "bodkin-clutch" construction shown in this 1911 ad. 

The fixed-back style of stud most common today originated in the mid-1930s and can also sometimes be found in a screw-back variation.  However, the small size of these round backs can potentially slip through the button hole and require the back (or the front) to be squeezed through the shirt's small button hole likely wrinkling the stiff shirt front during the process.

Some stiff-front shirts are designed with a side slit that allows the wearer to adjust the studs under the shirt without creasing its starched bosom.

Formal Facts:

Studs versus Buttons

Mother-of-pearl waistcoat and shirt studs, circa 1920s.

The term “button” was often used in reference to shirt studs, waistcoat studs and even cufflinks during the 19th century.  Adding to the confusion, studs were also often styled to resemble ordinary buttons.

Interestingly, the 1948 Vogue’s Book of Etiquette claimed that “studs are worn only on stiff evening shirts” and that soft ones should use regular buttons.  No other vintage etiquette or fashion authority made this claim though.

► Antique Timepieces on eBay

To see a pictorial summary of all the pocket watches, fobs and chains currently available on eBay check out the Collectors Weekly site.  

Vintage Evening Accessories



Studs and Cufflinks


Cufflinks and studs came into fashion in the 1840s along with starched shirt fronts that were too difficult to button.  Early and mid-Victorian etiquette authorities cautioned that they be used judiciously to avoid lapsing into vulgarity.  More specifically, evening jewelry was to be of maximum quality and of minimum quantity and flash.  For studs and cufflinks this typically meant simple gold designs although there are some period references to studs of diamond, black pearl, opal and amethyst.   


The rules remained the same in the late Victorian era.  “No jewelry whatever is used,” dictated an 1887 American conduct manual, “except that which has a direct purpose and this is kept as simple as possible.”  For the author this specifically meant studs and links of modest size and non-lustrous finish although he allowed that a single shirt stud could be larger than studs worn as a pair.  Gold continued to be the most popular option but pearl and white enamel settings also came into play during this time.  The arrival of the dinner jacket in the 1880s had little impact on these trends as it was simply a substitute for the full-dress tailcoat and not the basis of a distinct outfit.


Full-dress waistcoat stud set circa 1900 featuring ½” diameter mother-of-pearl settings in 9 karat gold bezel.    Detail from the set on the left showing the type of split-ring fastener commonly used with early waistcoat studs. Whole pearls have long been a popular style of full-dress shirt stud.  These are by Mikimoto with 14k gold backings.


Full dress in the Edwardian period continued to be decorated with gold, pearl and white enamel cufflinks and studs for shirts and waistcoats while some trendier dressers opted for mother-of-pearl, stonine or moonstone variations.  Gold jewelry was also common with the Edwardian dinner jacket but the informal coat’s burgeoning popularity gave rise to some unique alternatives in the form of semi-precious stones and dark enamel.


1916 ad for evening jewelry from popular US maker Krementz, promoting the ease in which their patented “bodkin clutch” studs could be inserted “in the stiffest shirt front”. Early 20th century set of  evening jewelry by Krementz.   Mother-of-pearl disc in gold bezel rim inlaid with round polished cabochon in a gold bezel setting. Set featuring mother-of-pearl with central pearl setting in a platinum bezel, likely by Carrington & Co.

At the beginning of the interwar period, pearl and semiprecious stones were the most popular choices for full-dress jewelry  The pearl option became ever more standard throughout the 1930s establishing a preference for ornamentation that would subtly blend with a man’s white dress linens.  Other variations included enamel, rock crystal and mother-of-pearl which could sometimes be black.  Contrasting black stonine waistcoat studs were a fad in the 1930s thanks to their adoption by the dandy Prince of Wales and led some mavericks to experiment with dark coloured alternatives.  Emily Post books of this time recommended sets of platinum or white gold.  

With black-tie attire the settings of choice were pearl, mother-of-pearl, jewels or enamel although black options such as onyx or black enamel became increasingly popular towards the start of the Second World War.  Gold cufflinks were also mentioned occasionally for wear with dinner jackets.  (Sources did not specify yellow or white gold but typically the former was understood whenever the term was used generically.)  

As to the materials that held the decorative pieces in place, evidence suggests that platinum was popular along with white gold and “white metal”.  Bezels of yellow gold seem rare and silver rarer still.  

Whether full-dress or semi-formal, it became increasingly de rigueur for evening jewelry to be worn as a matching set with one ad by U.S. jewelry maker Krementz insisting that such uniformity was “absolutely essential”.  The same company also offered collar studs of 14 karat solid gold, a truly decadent touch considering that these hidden fasteners would never be seen by anyone but the wearer.  

Dark mother-of-pearl vintage evening set notable for rare yellow gold bezels and swivel-back cufflink construction that originated in the 1930s. Links are 5/16” square, studs are just over 1/2" square. Krementz evening set circa 1925 consisting of black onyx studded in the center with a single seed pearl.  Cufflinks are 1/2" diameter, studs are 1/4". Fred Astaire circa 1936 wearing the popular white pearl shirt stud and the period's novel black waistcoat studs.

The advent of warm-weather black tie in the early ‘30s encouraged alternatives to the conventional inconspicuousness of evening jewelry in America.  Reds, blue and greens that had first appeared alongside the informal new white dinner jacket became more prominent in dress sets as the decade progressed.  Colored stones were especially popular in cuff links and when worn with white jackets they would often match the tie and cummerbund. For men who could not afford real rubies, emeralds and sapphires there were substitutes ranging from plain glass to the more expensive synthetic stones. 
1947 Swank ad depicting the ongoing trend for colored jewelry sets to match warm-weather bow accessories.  Excerpt from 1948 Esquire pictorial on summer semiformal weddings featuring  “gold cufflinks and studs with maroon stones for wear with maroon cummerbund set”. Fixed-back shirt studs began appearing in late 1930s.


World War Two brought an end to the Depression-era’s sartorial panache and in the modern era that followed pearl was the most popular choice for white-tie jewelry followed by gold and platinum and, less commonly, white gold and mother-of-pearl.  For black tie, etiquette authorities usually prescribed pearl and mother-of-pearl and sometimes onyx.  Fashion sources were a little more liberal in recommending dark pearl, gold, enamel or colored stone.  Whatever the choice it remained the norm for all pieces to match. 


By the mid 1960s pearl and mother-of-pearl became pretty much the norm for white tie.  Black-tie jewelry remained an “anything goes” proposition until the 1970s when gold and onyx became increasingly standard.


Fobs and Watch Chains


According to this comprehensive guide to pocket watches and chains, the mid-17th century marks the point when the English began to wear their timepieces in small "fob" pockets sewn either inside the waistband of their breeches or on the outside of their waistcoats. 

When worn in the waistcoat pocket, the watch was attached to a watch chain.   When worn in the breeches pocket, the watch was attached to a fob (named after the pocket) which was a strip of fancy fabric that hung outside the waistband and was weighted down with an antique wax seal  (a small metal stamp that imprinted a mark into the wax that was used to seal envelopes) or some other personal memento.


Watch fob worn with English Regency evening wear, 1807. 1868 "single Albert" watch chain worn with evening wear in UK. Gold Edwardian pocket watch with "double Albert" watch chain.

During the Regency era it appears that the waistband option was preferred to the waistcoat option.  Then as timepieces became thinner the practice of wearing them in the waistcoat pocket became the norm and was championed by Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert who also introduced the styles of watch chain named after him.  The "single Albert" chain was connected to the pocket watch at one end and the other end was attached to a waistcoat button thus creating a single "U" of draped chain between the pocket and button.  The "double Albert" chain did not attach to the waistcoat but instead passed through one of its buttonholes (or a purpose-made hole) and was attached to a second object kept in the other waistcoat pocket, thus doubling the number of "U"s created by the draped chain.  With this style there was often a very short piece of additional chain attached to the main chain at the buttonhole which would be used to carry a watch key or another personal memento.

Period etiquette guides reveal that by the mid-Victorian era pocket watches were being worn with evening waistcoats in the same manner as with day wear.  However, the drapes of thick chain and numerous dangling appendages were not harmonious with understated evening finery and the practice pretty much died out by the end of the century.  In 1901 the American conduct guide Etiquette for All Occasions remarked on the watch chain having become unpopular with young men and said that it was worn by older men only "if the links are small and the whole effect very inconspicuous." 

Meanwhile, the fob continued to appear with evening wear until it fell out of favor after World War I.  It later made a brief resurgence with full dress around 1939 as part of that period's return to Edwardian formal tradition.  Said Esquire in January 1940, "The old fashioned Georgian seal watch fob has returned, and is worn on the left side for convenience".  


1901 example of fob worn with American dinner suits. Watch fobs with Edwardian full dress in US, 1904. Formal Victorian fobs were often made of a black grosgrain ribbon.
Although outré with evening wear after 1900 the watch chain still appeared now and then as seen in this circa 1930 portrait of Clark Gable. The last hurrah for the watch fob circa 1938.

Key Chains


At the turn of the century there appeared an alternative method for storing the watch in one's evening trousers: the fine-link key chainEtiquette for All Occasions described this option in detail in 1901:

The watch is attached to a gold key-chain and concealed in the pocket.  The chain is attached to the suspender or two chains are worn - from one hangs the watch, from the other the keys; the greater portion of the chains and their appendages are concealed in trouser pocket. 

The key chain became very popular with evening wear in the 1930s and remained so through the forties.


Fobs and key chains were more popular with full dress than tuxedos, likely because  the tailcoat's front exposed them best.  (1934 US ad) Example of key chain worn with black tie.  From a 1932 Swank ad, one of the most popular makers of men's evening jewellery. A rare illustration of a key chain being worn with a cummerbund.  From a 1935 US ad for dinner jacket linings.
Note how much finer this c1900 antique key chain is compared to watch chains.  (The square links are only 1mm by 1mm.) The key chain vogue lasted right up until the early 1950s.  This 1948 illustration is from an Esquire pictorial on proper wedding attire.


In the early 1950s the pocket watch began to lose ground to the wristwatch which had been introduced to daywear after the First World War.  Amy Vanderbilt's 1952 Complete Book of Etiquette describes the former option and its accessories at the twilight of their popularity:

Wrist watches, unless of delicate design and without a leather strap, are less likely to be worn with evening clothes.  Instead, a thin watch, in gold or platinum, on a thin gold or platinum chain (or grandfather's good gold chain, which may be monumental but impressive) is worn. If any ill-advised woman should try to give a man a platinum chain with tiny diamonds between the links, he should return it to the jeweler who was talking into making it and go to Palm Beach on the proceeds or put them on the nearest fast horse.














expanded March 2013 (studs and cufflinks)




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