It used to be a lot easier for men to be dandies, but menswear has been basically dour for years, and there aren’t a lot of ways to show some flair if you wear a suit to work — which means it’s time to talk about cufflinks.

“It’s one of the only accessories left for men unless you’re pierced,” says Victoria McPhedran of Green Shag, the Toronto custom shirtmaker that also does a booming business with its own line of cufflinks. The shop produces a series of themed cufflink collections with immense graphic appeal as well as some high-end link sets that range from blingy to sculptural.

Cufflinks are the last vestige of the complicated engineering that went into shirts back when collars, cuffs and even shirtfronts were all separate items, to be held together with strings and studs. They’ve outlasted the tie tack, the collar bar and the tie clip as men’s accessories, and have managed to survive, even thrive, with the persistence of French cuffs and the revival of bespoke shirtmaking.

Green Shag sells sports-themed cufflinks inspired by hockey, basketball, golf and curling, and a line with Hockey Canada’s logos that sold well after our big win at the winter Olympics. There are sets featuring punchy, colourful graphics and another devoted to details of Canadian currency that got a quiet endorsement recently when Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, dropped by the shop to pick up a few pairs.

McPhedran says that a lot of cufflink collectors might not wear them every day, but they do want unique items to mark special occasions.

Shannon Stewart is a senior buyer and manager of sportswear for Harry Rosen, and sees a sort of informal etiquette to choosing cufflinks, like not competing with your boss for flashiest links. “You probably don’t want to wear a suit that’s more expensive than your boss’ as well. It does follow with those unwritten rules of what’s appropriate.”

Stewart is particularly fond of a line Rosen carries by London’s Robert Totosian, which feature jeweled animals, tiny watches, and a little globe that spins on its axis. “They’re conversation pieces,” Stewart says. “When you see a guy wearing a french cuff shirt and cufflinks there’s definitely something to talk about, because he’s chosen to express his personality with it.”

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