by Mandy Heth, owner of VintageBaublesNBits
One For the Guys: The History of Swank
If you’re a collector of men’s vintage jewelry and accessories then you’ve more than likely have a few (or many!) Swank pieces in your possession. Swank began creating men’s and women’s costume jewelry in 1897, when it went by the name of Attleboro Manufacturing Company, named after it’s location in Attleboro, Mass. The company was started by Samuel Stone and Maurice Baer.
The company started making men’s pieces starting in 1908, but they didn’t begin focusing only on men’s pieces until shortly after World War I. During the war the company created dog tags for the U.S. military and it was this shift in manufacturing that led the company to specialize in men’s jewelry.
The most notable pieces developed by Swank are cufflinks. The first line of cufflinks created by Swank were called Kum-a-Part, for their unique snap closure. Cufflinks started to become popular again in the 1920s when manufacturers started to develop pairs of cufflinks that were easy to insert and remove. Swank took advantage of these manufacturing changes and became a powerhouse in the cufflink market. During the 1960s when wearing cufflinks was at its peak in men’s fashion Swank was producing 12 million pairs a year. You can find Swank cufflinks in every shape, size and style imaginable!
After the company had success with their Kum-a-Part line and experienced a huge manufacturing increase they changed their name, officially becoming Swank Products, Inc. in 1936. In 1941 they had a third company change and shorted the name to just Swank, Inc.
Starting in the 1950s the brand began to acquire other companies and styles of manufacturing, expanding into leather goods and other men’s accessories. Making them a leader in men’s fashion and style.
In the 1980s the brand had a change of heart and began offering women’s jewelry again, mostly under the label Anne Klein. This foray back into women’s costume jewelry was short lived and once again the company does not make women’s jewelry, making Swank’s women’s pieces a little more collectible due to the relative rarity.
|Modernist Silver & Pearl Cuff Links from SerendipityTreasure|
The company still operates their men’s line today and also creates private labels for designers such as Claiborne, Guess, Geoffrey Beene, Kenneth Cole, Nautica and Tommy Hilfiger. In 2012 they were purchased by Randa Accessories and continue to produce affordable, fashionable men’s jewelry and accessories.