The Marvelous Cuff
The Marvelous Cuff Bracelet

 Fashion authorities have proclaimed that the cuff bracelet is “having a moment,” including on the runways of some of fashion’s heaviest hitters: Vuitton, Chanel, Chloe. The apparent inspiration for this resurgence of interest lies in two Marvel movies that dramatically showcase female power. Wakanda’s fierce warriors, the women-only Dora Milaje, sport them in Black Panther to stunning effect. 

Wonder Woman’s legendary cuffs – or ‘bracelets of submission’ – as worn by Gal Gadot in the 2017 film (Credit: Alamy)
 

Wonder Woman, another Marvel icon, has done the same for generations now, including in 2020’s Wonder Woman 1984. No mere embellishment, the cuffs are both symbolic of warrior status in these films and protective of the flesh beneath. Wonder Woman’s “bracelets of submission,” in fact, repel bullets and, when crossed one over the other, create an impenetrable force field. 

 

 

But the power of the cuff bracelet is nothing new. Almost by definition, cuffs are objects of gravitas in their visibility, boldness, and impact. They have for millennia been used to convey power and status. 

 

 Ancient Egyptian hinged cuffs believed to have belonged to the wives of Thutmose lll, who ruled Egypt for more than 50 years (Credit: Met Museum)

The ancient Egyptians wore them, encrusted with stones and amulets if the wearer were wealthy enough. They were important in the Mayan civilization as well, but less widespread, as cuffs were reserved for the king. The Greeks routinely wore cuffs on both the lower and upper arm, as did the Romans after them and the soldiers of both empires. Native Americans – especially the Navajo – made and wore cuffs of leather and intricate beading, adding silver and semi-precious stones to their repertoire in the late 19th Century. What cuffs a tribe member wore, and how many, depended on their status and rank in the tribe. 
Coco Chanel photographed by Man Ray in 1935
Photo © 2016 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Working with Fulco di Verdura In the early 1930s, Coco Chanel audaciously “repurposed” stones from the jewelry pieces gifted her by her lovers to create two of the most iconic pieces of jewelry in modern history: the Maltese cross cuffs. Made of base metal covered with enamel, and almost always worn as a pair on opposite wrists, the cuff braclets (among other pieces) came to symbolize Chanel’s iconoclastic style and fierce independence. Thus was the modern cuff born.  Marlene Dietrich, Diana Vreeland, and Jackie Onassis famously followed suit with cuffs of equal heft, style and daring, some made of precious materials and others not.

 

The actress Marlene Dietrich, wearing her beloved ruby-and-diamond Jarretière bracelet from Van Cleef & Arpels in 1947.

Elsa Peretti’s bone cuff bracelet, like so much else she designed for Tiffany & Co., revolutionized and popularized the style in the early 1970’s. Its unapologetically sensuous, sculptural wrist-hugging form simply captured the aesthetic of the feminist movement. Crafted of (relatively) affordable silver – a metal that Tiffany’s previously had eliminated from its collections – it was and is clean, sleek, strong, boldly stylish, and meant for “the working woman.”  It is no coincidence that Peretti’s bone cuff is the piece we see on the wrist of Diana Prince, Wonder Woman’s alter ego, after she has saved the world.

Just another day at the office.  

 

Fri, Oct 01, 21