SORT­ING THE MEN FROM THE BOYS

Men are start­ing to re­ject so­cial stereo­types and em­brace jew­ellery of all kinds,

The National - News - Luxury - - CONTENTS - Selina Den­man dis­cov­ers

Men are start­ing to re­ject cul­tural stereo­types and em­brace jew­ellery of all kinds

“As­tate­ment ring. It re­ally sorts the men from the boys,” claims Bri­tish jew­ellery de­signer Stephen Web­ster.

It would take a bold man in­deed to wear some of Web­ster’s cre­ations. Cases in point: the Beasts of Lon­don Lion Head ring, a weighty re­pro­duc­tion of a snarling lion in rhodi­umplated ster­ling sil­ver; or the Ra­zor Blade ring, where a jagged line cuts through a thick rec­tan­gle of gold in a de­sign that is at once ag­gres­sive and ap­peal­ing.

The mod­ern man has a com­plex re­la­tion­ship with adorn­ment. In some cul­tures, un­less it’s a watch or a wed­ding ring, wear­ing jew­ellery stands in con­flict with tra­di­tional per­cep­tions of mas­culin­ity. In many cases, men’s jew­ellery has only re­ally been em­braced by those in­hab­it­ing the fringes of so­ci­ety – the gen­der­less spiked col­lars and cuffs of the punk move­ment, for ex­am­ple, or the sil­ver peace signs favoured by hip­pies. And when men’s jew­ellery has moved into the main­stream, it has o en been to dis­as­trous ef­fect.

Beaded bracelets make a def­i­nite state­ment

The over­sized medal­lions of the 1970s, or the os­ten­ta­tious signet rings that have adorned pinky fin­gers since time im­memo­rial, are proof, should you need it. But at­ti­tudes are chang­ing among a more mil­len­nial, met­ro­sex­ual au­di­ence. “Not so long ago, for the av­er­age man to wear any jew­ellery be­yond a sim­ple wed­ding band and a clas­sic watch was con­sid­ered some­what arty and re­bel­lious. Now, guys from all walks of life are team­ing bracelets, rings or a neck­lace with both of­fice at­tires and week­end looks,” says Si­mon Spi­teri, ac­ces­sories buyer at on­line re­tailer Mr Porter. “I think the grow­ing changes in at­ti­tude have stemmed from in­flu­en­tial celebri­ties, along­side street-style pho­tog­ra­phers and in­flu­encers on In­sta­gram, show­ing guys how easy jew­ellery can re­ally be to wear,” he adds.

Mr Porter has wit­nessed “a me­te­oric rise in de­mand for men’s jew­ellery” in the last two years, ac­cord­ing to Spi­teri. Web­ster launched Ray­man, his first col­lec­tion for men, al­most two decades ago, and agrees that at­ti­tudes sur­round­ing this seg­ment have un­der­gone a marked change in the in­terim. “It would prob­a­bly be too ex­treme to say that jew­ellery has be­come main­stream, but it has def­i­nitely shi ed from just rock stars, rap­pers and sports per­son­al­i­ties. It has been very in­ter­est­ing to watch men de­velop a taste for jew­ellery,” Web­ster says.

That men are in­creas­ingly see­ing jew­ellery as a wor­thy in­vest­ment is clear by the fact that they are start­ing to buy more ex­pen­sive pieces, says Candice Fragis, buy­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing di­rec­tor at on­line re­tailer Far­fetch. “This sea­son, the num­ber of menswear cus­tomers shop­ping for jew­ellery has in­creased. In gen­eral, we’ve seen pos­i­tive growth in cus­tomer spend­ing on higher price point items and, as the mar­ket for buy­ing jew­ellery on­line ma­tures, we ex­pect to see more of this,” Fragis ex­plains.

Jew­ellery brands that are gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity on Far­fetch in­clude Ver­sace, Valentino, Margiela and Saint Lau­rent, as well as North­skull, Nialaya and Gas Bi­joux. “Ad­di­tion­ally, newer brands for us are also do­ing very well – such as Shaun Leane, who makes beau­ti­ful leather bracelets, and Tom Wood, cur­rently the king of the reimag­ined signet ring,” Fragis adds.

Men are be­com­ing more ex­per­i­men­tal in their pur­chases, she claims. “The more clas­sic ap­proach has been to col­lect in­vest­ment pieces over a life­time and have a se­lec­tion that evolves over time. How­ever, as men be­come more and more fash­ion con­scious, and the se­lec­tion of brands and trends be­come more ac­ces­si­ble, at­ti­tudes to­wards jew­ellery be­come bolder. This is cer­tainly re­flected in the rise in fash­ion jew­ellery such as leather bracelets.”

Bracelets have emerged as the hero piece in men’s jew­ellery. They are easy to wear and easy to con­ceal, and are a nat­u­ral next step for those men who have tra­di­tion­ally only felt com­fort­able wear­ing a sim­ple wrist­watch. “A beaded or leather bracelet has be­come an in­te­gral part of a lot of guys’ wardrobes these days,” says Web­ster. “The bracelet has been the eas­i­est tran­si­tion or an at­tempt to ven­ture into the world of jew­ellery for men; they al­most bal­ance the watch on the op­po­site hand, and bracelets can still be hid­den un­der the jacket or shirt­sleeve for a board­room meet­ing – we still hear that com­ment from some of our more con­ser­va­tive clien­tele.”

The breadth of bracelet styles on of­fer, in terms of aes­thet­ics, colours and ma­te­ri­als, means there is some­thing for every­one here – from Saint Lau­rent’s straight­for­ward sil­ver ID bracelets, and Alexan­der McQueen’s beaded of­fer­ings (o en topped with a skull, as is to be ex­pected), to black leather cuffs cour­tesy of Ba­len­ci­aga, and sim­ple strands of braided leather from Bot­tega Veneta. Those men who are look­ing to make a bolder state­ment should head straight to a thick leather cuff by Gucci, which comes com­plete with tiger-shaped studs and an over­sized buckle fas­ten­ing.

Just as stack­ing has emerged as a key trend in women’s jew­ellery, men are catch­ing on, too. “Beaded bracelets make a def­i­nite state­ment, and wear­ing them stacked has be­come a trend opted for by many re­cently. We have seen guys stack a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent styles of bracelets, in­clud­ing those made from leather, rope and metal to cre­ate in­di­vid­ual com­bi­na­tions,” says Spi­teri.

“One thing is ev­i­dent, once the guys start, there is no stop­ping them,” Web­ster adds. “They like to mix dif­fer­ent colour beaded bracelets with sil­ver, and now our lat­est ad­di­tions, ce­ramic bracelets. Our Cuban bracelet has been very suc­cess­ful. They are mas­cu­line and very re­silient – and men like the fact that you can keep the same clasp and in­ter­change a dif­fer­ent colour or fin­ish for the ac­tual bracelet.”

That’s not to say that all men are con­tent to stop at an unas­sum­ing bracelet. Fragis is wit­ness­ing ris­ing in­ter­est in gold medal­lion neck­laces and rings from Ver­sace, which may mean that 1970s styling is well and truly on its way back. State­ment pieces from Alexan­der McQueen – never for the faint-hearted – are also res­onat­ing with a grow­ing num­ber of con­sumers. Even Gucci’s Bull Head ring, an enor­mous sil­ver mass in the shape of an an­gry-look­ing bovine, which has a turquoise stone em­bed­ded into its fore­head and per­fectly epit­o­mises Gucci’s cur­rent out­there aes­thetic, is find­ing fans on Mr Porter.

None­the­less, Web­ster ac­knowl­edges that rings are still the last fron­tier when it comes to men’s jew­ellery – al­though he has found a clever way to counter this ret­i­cence, he re­veals. “Rings, es­pe­cially bold and fig­u­ra­tive, are still not for ev­ery man, but one thing we have no­ticed is give a guy any­thing they can play with, like a spin­ning ring, and you’ve won them over.”

Even here, it seems, boys love their toys.

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