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Feeling fancy with cuff links, tie tacks and collars

Whatever happened to cuff links?

They still exist. You can pay well more than $100 for a pair. (Or a mere $55 for a pair shaped like bacon and eggs — to wear during breakfast meetings, I presume.)

But no one I know wears them. And I’m not allowed because they’re “fancy.”

Cuff links are fancy metal studs with a post and a toggle clasp built onto the backs. They hold your shirt sleeves together when your cuffs have no buttons.

I received my first — and only — pair of cuff links when I was 4.

“Mom,” I wailed, “my arms lost their buttons. I didn’t do it. I dunno where the buttons went.”

“Stop wiping your nose on your sleeves, Burton,” Mom soothed. “This is your new Sunday shirt. It doesn’t have buttons on the cuffs.”

“Did the store man’s mommy forget to sew them on?”

“No, dear. This shirt doesn’t have buttons because it’s fancy.”

I scrunched my eyes and tried to memorize the new word — “fancy.” It must be big people talk fo, “Somebody goofed but we’re going to pretend it was on purpose.”

Mom held out her hand. “That’s why we got you these.”

In her palm were a couple shiny things. Each one had a big black ball with holes in it and two silly-looking white baseball bats with red rings around the handles.

I rubbed a finger across one of the black baseballs. “It’s too big. An’ it’s broken.”

“It’s a bowling ball and pins. It was your grandfather’s.”

I knew what a bowl was. I ate my Cheerios out of one every morning. There was no bowl on the pins. They must have been fancy.

“And this is how it works.” She flipped the toggle clasp. “You line up the slots in your sleeves, slide the post through them, and flip this toggle into place.”

My face lit up. What an awesome toy! As soon as we got to church, I undid a cuff link and sat on the pew flipping the toggle. When the link slipped out of my hand, I spun the other until it dropped, too. My shirt sleeves flapped as I waved my arms. “All gone, Mommy. Need more.”

I’ve worn shirts with buttons on the cuffs ever since.

My Batman tie tack lasted just about as long. There I was, swinging Batman around by the little chain, and suddenly, the Caped Crusader arched through and swooped down on the pastor in the pulpit.

I guess I was just fancy that way.

The other day, I read one of those cautionary tales about a bad boy like me. You could tell he was a ruffian because he wore no collar.

No collar? That’s before even my time, and I stretch back into a fair amount of history.

Apparently collars and cuffs used to come separately. I suspect fancy shirts were to blame again.

What I took from the story was that to be a gentleman in the old days meant reaching for a fresh pair of cuffs and a clean collar. So I wondered, did that mean they wore their shirts 16 days in a row?

“Dear, your pet skunk passed out. I think it’s time to change your shirt again. Don’t forget to get a clean collar and cuffs.”

“Sure, Ma. Can I wear the Shredded Wheat bowl links? They’re fancy.”

All attempts to convert Cole into a gentleman have met with despair. Try if you dare at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.

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