I belong to what is still called, irrelevantly, a white-collar profession. For the first half of my career the name applied. Most days I would put on a white shirt and tie to go to the office, even when the office was in my house. I was a "suit," though my income didn't justify the expense. For as long as I still had a boyish figure I was kept in wearable suits by other professionals who had outgrown them — that is, gotten too fat to button the jacket.
In those days shirts with French cuffs were common and readily available. They required cufflinks. I had two or three pair, gifts from my parents and in-laws. The most durable set was given to me by my parents the Christmas after I graduated from college, forty-eight years ago. They are sterling silver with gemstones of a translucent midnight blue — perhaps moonstone, but I am not sure of that. I still wear them. I hope someone will want them when I am gone, though the fashion that requires them may also be gone by then.
Indeed, there came a time when French cuffs were no longer available on the shelves of men's departments, at least of the ones I could afford. I would not have resented this so much if they hadn't still been selling cufflinks — for what purpose I couldn't fathom, except "We've still got to get something for Dad!"
I had to put my cufflinks away in a dresser drawer.
I don't remember how long this period lasted, but about thirteen years ago I spotted, across a boardroom table, a colleague in French cuffs! I didn't interrupt business, but I made a beeline for him at the coffee break and asked where he got his shirt. The Penney's catalog, he said, was the only source he knew.
I went home and ordered a shirt, and have had at least one in my closet ever since. I brought my cufflinks out of hiding and began wearing the shirt to worship. Before long one of the widows in church noticed, and offered me her husband's cufflinks. Most of them had been gifts from her to him over their long marriage, and their son did not use them. She said they were good ones, and they are indeed. I took them with gratitude, not only for their own sake but to perpetuate the memory of the man who had worn them before me, and whom I had admired and respected.
There were several sets. For more than ten years now I have been wearing them in turn with those I already owned, which were originally gifts to my father and my father-in-law, as well as to me. In my family, and my wife's too, I am the only man of my generation who wears cufflinks.
Most gifts for men today, if they are not perishables, tend to be tools or toys, including their electronic variations. But cufflinks in their day were excellent gifts — small, beautiful, pound-for-pound very expensive, but still had their own arcane practicality. They aren't just to look at. When your shirt cuffs are buttonless, there is every reason to wear cufflinks.
But the main reason they are among my favorite things is that, when I put them on, I remember with gratitude those from whom I received them, whether by gift or inheritance.