What is a cufflink? Is it an antiquated sleeve-fastener, or is it the essence of cool? Why do cufflinks persist in fashion, when a button can do the job much more conveniently?
Like much in fashion, the answer seems to come down to an expression of personal style.
Sam Wylie, a current student in Melbourne Polytechnic’s Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design, sums it up in one succinct statement: “With cufflinks, you’re literally wearing your heart on your sleeve.”
Sam is a rock musician with an appreciation for classic design who moved to Melbourne from Queensland two years ago to do study with us. Learning to produce his own jewellery stemmed from frustration at never being able to find quite what he wanted in terms of accessories.
“I loved finding bits to put on jackets, brooches, medallions; I wore skull rings and cufflinks. I figured that I could probably just as well make my own and get exactly what I needed.”
Sam is one of the student entrants in Lord Coconut’s 2017 Cufflink Competition, an iconic event in Melbourne’s fashion scene. His gorgeous cameo cufflinks, Leafy Lasses, use upcycled cameos from vintage earrings set within ornamentally etched brass housings.
“I love working with brass because it tarnishes, giving the pieces an aged, antique look,” he says. He’s a cufflink wearer himself, and likes the old world feel they impart.
“I like the whole idea of them – they evoke an old-timey feel and I like the detail in them.” With his leather jacket and slicked-back hair, you can sense a bit of both the gunfighter and 60s rocker aesthetic in what Sam is doing.
Cufflinks first showed up in the 1600s, though they didn’t really take off till the middle of the 19th century, when starched shirts became common. Too stiff to fasten with a button, the new style of shirt required something sturdier, and the industrial revolution made it possible to mass produce these mechanical marvels.
The current trend of exquisite ornamental cufflinks that reveal some of the wearer’s personality is a relatively recent thing, though. Even when cufflinks were common, the ornamental styles were worn only by men with great self-confidence. Now, when you see a pair of cufflinks it’s usually part of an overall ensemble, or in a professional environment it’s a hint that underneath the business attire lurks someone with particular flair.
Another more recent development is that cufflinks are also seen on women’s wrists. In fact, Sam deliberately designs his cufflinks to be somewhat androgynous, so they can be worn by men or women.
The Lord Coconut Cufflink Competition runs till Wednesday 5 September when the winner will be announced, but you can view the exhibition until Sunday 9 September at Lord Coconut, Level 5 Mitchell House, corner Lonsdale St & Elizabeth Streets in Melbourne. All the cufflinks are available for purchase.
Main photo and photo above: Sam Wylie. Photo credit: Anita Coia for Melbourne Polytechnic
Media enquiries should be directed to Melbourne Polytechnic Media Officer, Anita Coia, on 03 9269 1251 or ua.ud1566231063e.cin1566231063hcety1566231063lopen1566231063ruobl1566231063em@ai1566231063dem1566231063
Melbourne Polytechnic operates across seven campuses and five specialist training centres throughout Melbourne. The institute delivers high quality vocational and higher education in industry-standard facilities.
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