Sleeve buttons and the sharp-dressed Regency man
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
If you follow me on FB, Twitter, or IG, you’ll see me post about #GeorgianJewelry.
Who doesn’t love jewelry… and a sharp-dressed man? We tend to think of Regency-era women decked out in garnets, topazes, and emeralds, but let’s not forget the gentlemen.
Since the 17th century, sleeve buttons were used to keep closed the large cuffs on gentlemen’s coats. They were made from either silver or gold, or alloys that had the look of precious metals. They were meant to be swapped out to wear with different coats. At this time, men’s shirts were just an undergarment, and only the collar and long lace cuffs were meant to be seen. The lacy trim disappeared by the end of the19th century—good style choice, gentlemen. With the frilly cuffs gone, coat sleeves narrowed and the plain shirt cuff now extended beyond the coat sleeve. It needed to be held closed... but with what?
A ribbon or plain button won’t do when everyone can see it. What was a sharp-dressed young man to do? He moved his decorative sleeve buttons from his coat to his shirt. Large cuffs on coat sleeves fell out of fashion, but 2 or 3 fabric or gilt decorative buttons remained on the sleeve, and that’s still seen on men’s suits today.
By the time of the Regency, these sleeve buttons were made of metals, enamel, or paste as well as precious stones and gems. They were a way to convey personal style and could be either plain or more ornate for formal dress. Around this time these linked sleeve buttons—now only used to secure shirt cuffs—began to be called cufflinks.
I feature jewelry in every novel I write. Darcy receives a gift of cufflinks in His Choice of a Wife. What kind of sleeve buttons did Darcy get? What was the reason for the gift? Find the book on Amazon and KU to find out!