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Buttons Are Overrated

Author : Jeff Piper

Submitted : 2009-04-30 14:50:15    Word Count : 795    Popularity:   55

Tags:   cufflinks, cuff links, men's cufflinks, wedding cufflinks, groomsmen gifts

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Who wears buttons on their shirt cuffs? I’ll tell you who – Amish people, toddlers, and flannel shirted lumberjacks. Guys with their company logos – or even worse, their own names – embroidered over their bosoms. These people wear buttons on their wrists.

It seems to me that it’s time for the American love affair with the humble button to be over. What are a button’s merits? They hold two pieces of cloth fastened over some body part.

Big deal.

As Harrison Ford said in Witness, “Got anything against zippers?”

Buttons used to be ornate and elaborate, if all these period dramas about medieval and Victorian times are to be believed. However, the buttons of Louis the n teeth quickly gave way to simpler, more masculine fasteners for menswear, while women’s clothes relied on myriad number of fancy buttons to do up the back, button the cuff, and probably even hitch up the under drawers.

Buttons were once miniature works of art, hand crafted for the aristocracy and landed gentry with the precise and tender care used in creating fine jewelry. Because – imagine this – buttons were once actual jewelry. Think about the costumes of the French and Spanish courts – those things up the front of that guy’s waistcoat were jewels. The fact that they were doing up his jacket don’t lessen their brilliance, their shine, their amazing complement to the diamond buckle on our swain’s high heeled shoes.

However, once the Industrial Revolution had us finished with figuring out the big necessities – long lengths of cotton in patterns derived from the good taste of the far flung East, calibrated tools, and lots of adorable and undistinguished knick knacks for the over mantels and mantels of the rising middle classes – the robber barons turned their attention to stamping out gazillions of buttons that from a very far distance, in a very poor light, looked amazingly somewhat like the expensive handmade buttons of the Upper Classes.

Since that time, buttons have done up the shirts and cuffs of the business class, two or three have been added to business suits with a corresponding number of slightly smaller buttons pretending to do up the cuff, and – off and on – buttons have done up the fly of jeans and the vests of Mr. Jefferson esque three piecers.

Buttons were easier to use than cuff links, and faster. They were the sporks of the nineteenth century.

Have you noticed, though, that most of these buttons have degenerated from tiny masterworks to little plastic fake mother of pearl or fake other materials? Oh, if you feel like channeling Ted Knight in Caddyshack you can go buy a navy blue blazer with big brass buttons with anchors embossed on them. But really, only the Captain – of Captain and Tennille fame – can get away with that look (and he didn’t, not really).

And really, while we’re talking about the merits of buttons – and have we hit upon any yet? – let’s talk about some of the trials of buttons. First of all, how many times have you been on your way to a very important meeting/date/wedding/funeral and pulled your shirt from its crispy place on the dry cleaner’s hanger or box and realized that many, if not all, or at least one, of those fake mothers – I mean mother of pearl buttons – is cracked in half, pulverized beyond fastening power, or all gone altogether.

So what do you do? You grab a paper clip/safety pin/wad of chewed Wrigley’s and you jam that cuff together.

Sloppy. Ridiculous. More noticeable than a parrot on your shoulders and an eye patch. Truly.

The interesting thing about buttons is that most men of power did not wear buttons on their cuffs. Ever. Well, maybe during their mandatory tour of military duty, if they weren’t rich enough to get someone else to do it for them. In combat situations, buttons make sense, because they go really well with camouflage.

No, men of power wore cufflinks. Still do. It’s the finishing touch that indicates to the world that you are in control. You are not buttoned up. You are not as cute as a button. You don’t have to button your lip. You are not wearing a cuff fastener with the word “butt” in it.

Buttons today were meant for the masses. Stand out. Buy yourself a pair of cufflinks – the more bling, the better. Pick a pair of cufflinks that show a bit of sparkle – a little gold or enamel for day, and maybe even a little jewelry for evening.

You are no snooze button.

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