The Silk Knot Cufflink, also known as Turk’s Head cufflinks have been around since the early years of the 20th century and their invention is credited to the Paris shirt maker Charvet, of whom more later.
The Silk Knot Cufflink is based on the Turk’s head knot, a decorative knot that would have been familiar with sailors in the days of sailing ships. Boy Scout Leaders ancient and modern will also be familiar with the knot as on completion of their training course they are awarded the Wood Badge and allowed to use a woggle made using the Turk’s head knot. The woggle, also known as the Gilwell woggle is not worn by other scouts.
The name Turk’s head comes from the knots rough resemblance to a Middle Eastern turban. It is also known as a monkey’s fist, so sometimes the cufflinks are called monkey’s fist cufflinks.
In the USA Silk Knot Cufflinks are occasionally known as bachelor cufflinks. This is because their elasticated construction allows the wearer to put on a shirt where the cufflink has been threaded through the cuff in advance, thus avoiding the fiddly business of trying to thread a cufflink single handedly through the buttonholes of the cuff when it is already worn.
Sailors used the Turk’s head knot for practical purpose such as marking the “king spoke” of a ship’s wheel, giving instant identification that when vertical the rudder would be in a central position. It was also used as a weight on the end of a rope, making it easier to throw, for example on to the quayside when docking a ship. Made from heavy rope, the Turk’s head knot also made an effective weapon when skirmishing at close quarters as it could be swung very effectively and knock people out or over.
Back to Charvet the shirt makers; they have had a shop in the Place Vendôme in Paris since 1877 and are famous for supplying shirts to royalty and heads of state. They are also credited with the introduction of the Silk Knot Cufflink in 1904. These were originally made in silk of a single colour and rapidly became a popular gentleman’s fashion accessory.
Today, Silk Knot Cufflinks are usually made from braided elastic rather than silk and the cufflinks are made not just in single colours, but in two or three different colours as well. This enables them to be made to match the colours of a sports club, institution or even a national flag, allowing the wearer to display their association discreetly on their sleeve.
The popularity of the Silk Knot Cufflink eventually led to them being copied in precious metals such as silver, letting wearers addicted to silk or elasticated Silk Knot Cufflinks to have a similar cufflink to wear on more formal occasions. What’s more, while these precious metal Silk Knot Cufflinks don’t have the bachelor appeal of the elasticated Silk Knot Cufflinks, they do look very smart.