Now & Then: The History of the Cuff Bracelet

The trend for the double cuff makes a strong aesthetic statement and gives a feeling of indestructibility to the wearer.

For the past few seasons, cuffs have been decorating the wrists of fashion’s most stylish models and muses. The big, indestructible-looking bracelets looking like shields of armor, are studded and gilded in gemstones, one on each arm. You’d be forgiven if the trend reminds you of Wonder Woman striking her signature battle pose, crossing her wrists and deflecting bullets with her cuffs.

Coco Chanel’s iconic Maltese Cross Vendura cuffs were inspired by Byzantine artwork discovered during her travels. The cross was the symbol of the Knights of Malta, a Christian military order charged with the defense of the Holy Land after the First Crusade. 

Superhero powers aside, it’s a bold, powerful look that has appealed to warrior women through fashion history. Audacious and assertive, Coco Chanel was rarely photographed without her iconic Maltese Cross cuffs designed for her by Vendura in the 1930s. Matching cuff mainstays moored Harper’s Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland indomitable style through the 1960s. Leading the charge for modern day lionhearted style is Elle’s Kate Lanphear, whose chunky cuffs work to assert her cult androgynous and punky aesthetic.

Elle’s Style Director and modern day fashion icon, Kate Lanphear’s all-black looks are often armored with a mixture of leather studded cuffs.

While combined with other jewelry, the look is most definitely an eccentric style statement. Worn alone, matching cuffs look clean and modern. Match the scale of your cuffs to your sleeves. With a delicate cuff go with a simple sleeve, with ornate, embellished cuffs balance with a strong shoulder or architectural sleeve. Feel the power of an accessory that can transform a look from glamor girl to amazon in a flick of a wrist.

The growing love for cuffs means there are plenty of options to choose from this season, from plain gold or silver to studded and ornate. 


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Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.