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
Larter contemporary Krementz patented their "bodkin-clutch"
construction shown in this 1911 ad.
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.
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.
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.
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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
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
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
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.
full-dress or semi-formal, it became increasingly de rigueur
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
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
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
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
Watch fob worn with
English Regency evening wear,
1868 "single Albert" watch chain worn with evening wear in UK.
Gold Edwardian pocket watch with "double
Albert" watch chain.
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.
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
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
Watch fobs with Edwardian full dress in
Formal Victorian fobs were often made of a black grosgrain
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.
At the turn of the century
there appeared an alternative method for storing the watch in one's
evening trousers: the fine-link key chain. Etiquette 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
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.
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
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.