Accessory to a crime
The well-dressed man knows how to choose the correct ‘extra things’ in life
Have you ever said to a friend, or even thought to yourself, I must buy an accessory today? I suspect not. So I’m not sure why people refer to shoes, bags, bracelets, cufflinks, even ties and watches, as accessories. I’ve never had the desire to accessorise; I’m not sure many men have. I do, though, sometimes like to wear a tie and carry a bag. “Accessorising” is another one of those words, like layering, that gives the things we blokes choose or need to wear a bad name.
However, I did recently struggle not to use the accessorise word when sitting in Nobu next to a pleasant young man who was wearing a tiara made from gold leaves. I felt it only polite to acknowledge his rather eccentric choice of attire for a supper of sushi, but wasn’t sure what the male equivalent of a tiara was. I told him I liked his, umm, err, accessory. (In retrospect, that could have been misconstrued quite awkwardly.) Prince Azim of Brunei had no such qualms about referring to it as a tiara — a gift from his sister, he explained — and indeed it went well with his low-cut, double-breasted jacket worn with no shirt underneath. Quite a look. I suppose I would have the courage to dress more flamboyantly if I, too, was accompanied by four burly bodyguards whenever I popped out for dinner with friends.
Of course, extra things (what I prefer to call accessories) sell very well to men. We no longer buy a briefcase for life, we buy one to use until we get bored of it and see another we like more; the same goes for the number of shoes we own (there’s a little bit of Imelda Marcos in all of us these days), and even jewellery. I’m amazed at the number of cufflinks sold nowadays. I wonder what is the ratio of cufflinks to the number of double-cuff shirts a man owns; disproportionate I’m sure.
Other items of jewellery seem to come in and out of vogue. Tie clips were popular a few years ago but seem to have fallen back into obscurity (possibly ruined by The Wolf of Wall Street). Bracelets are piled on each summer when short-sleeve weather arrives but for the rest of the year they become quite annoying when they get caught in cuffs and under cashmeres (that’s what you call jumpers these days as no one, come rain or shine, is meant to wear anything but).
And we’ve seen the renaissance of the necklace. These, I’m afraid, are tricky beasts: wear one too chunky and you look like an extra in Narcos; too thin and you look like an extra in Nuns on the Run.
And, since people tend to keep necklaces on at night, there’s always the chance of clandestine entanglement. There’s nothing less deflating than the afterglow of coitus being spent trying to disentangle two glass bead-enamelled gold necklaces.
Sunglasses — you may well be wearing a pair while reading this — are another
“extra thing” we’ve embraced beyond need. Most of us now own multiple pairs, in case we’re in the mood to channel Steve McQueen in his Persols, Jack Nicholson in his Ray Bans or Elton John in his... maybe not.
Back in fashion, too, are clip-on shades: everyone from Thom Browne to Oliver Peoples are offering frames with clip-on shades to go over prescription lenses. This, for me, is a godsend; I’ve spent years sitting on sun-loungers trying to read books while wearing a pair of sunglasses balanced on top of my normal spectacles ignoring the small crowd of children pointing and laughing at my absurd predicament.
And maybe, just maybe, in a few years’ time we might all, like Prince Azim, be popping out for sushi in a tiara. But it was his bevy of bodyguards that I truly envied (even more than his £5bn in the bank). A security detail is something I’ve always dreamed of... something I would quite happily refer to as an accessory.
Medallion men: Beastie Boys, New York City, 1987