18th Century Sleeve Links

A pair of shank-buttons linked together for the cuff of a lady’s shift or a man’s shirt. Also called “sleeve buttons,” and sometimes (in modern descriptions) as cufflinks.

This notebook page is divided into three sections: extant examples of sleeve links, portraits and illustrations of men and women wearing sleeve links, and places where you can buy your own sleeve links.

A more precise description from Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland: “button-like clothing attachments that were not actually sewn to the garment. For the most part, this category consists of pairs of buttons attached by a metal chain link or bar, known today as cufflinks. Each button could be inserted into a buttonhole, and the tension between the two buttons connected by the metal link would hold the garment together.”

Gold sleeve-buttons appear in wills (for example, the wills of William Burnham, 1764, Thomas Fisher, 1771, and John Barclay, 1779).


People wearing sleeve links


Shopping for sleeve links

There are several places online where you can buy reproduction 18th century sleeve links:

In addition, there are several online antique stores selling 18th century sleeve links, and you can often find original 18th century sleeve links on eBay.