Style | Swellboy

Swellboy on… elephant-hair cuff links

You owe it to yourself to pay a visit to this remarkable New York basement

Swellboy on… elephant-hair cuff links

Image: Brijesh Patel

October 30 2010
Nick Foulkes

I have a weakness for elephant hair. One of my favourite things is a large elephant-hair bangle that is seldom off my right wrist and when that proves to be too cumbersome I switch to a finer one from Alfred Dunhill. However I now have a new object of obsession in my life, a pair of mid-20th-century Boucheron cuff links made with the same material.

It seems that Boucheron was commendably inventive when it came to finding ways of helping men stop their cuffs from gaping, coming up with a sort of double stirrup arrangement covered in elephant hair. I was introduced to this exquisite object, or rather pair of objects, by Benjamin Macklowe, whose eponymous Madison Avenue gallery is one of the best things about New York.

We haggled in the most gentlemanly of ways, but in the end prudence won a rare victory and by the narrowest of margins I saved myself about half a term’s school fees. Such decisions are not easy. I now find myself fretting that these elephant-hair cufflinks will be garnishing the shirtsleeves of some hedge-fund hooligan who does not appreciate the unique character of elephant hair; a paradoxical material in that it is of animal origin yet has the characteristics of wood.

If you are looking for a Christmas or birthday present for me, I am sure that Mr Macklowe will happily steer you towards the links in question, but even if you do not intend to mark either my birth or that of the Saviour by making me a present, I urge you to pay him a visit anyway. On street level his gallery is that of a dealer in vintage jewels, but the basement is a huge bunker devoted entirely to art nouveau furnishings and lights. Art nouveau is not that fashionable at the moment, which is plainly why I am drawn to it, but even if the world of Horta and Guimard is not especially hot at the moment, you owe it to yourself to acquaint yourself with Macklowe, his basement, and his cuff links.