Written by Jason Hall of MaleFashionReviews.com
The Big Idea
So, you’ve found your perfect pair of jeans, you know where to buy your favorite, best-fitting t-shirts, and you know which mall stores really aren’t worth your time. You might even be reduced to online shopping; not because you despise human interaction, but because you’re a smart shopper and know the best finds are online.
You’ve been doing this for long enough that you know what works. Mostly.
There’s something about men’s jewelry that makes it seem so unattainable. Seriously, google “men’s jewelry” and you’ll either *recognize that celebrity* or be swept under the current with whatever combination of 17 colorful beads and plastic leather that "male fashion icon" number X claims is cool as of last week.
But every once in awhile the stars align and a dude puts some jewelry on - without looking like a damn fool.
I’m not gonna lie, I used to be afraid of jewelry too. I mean, my subtly-shiny black jeans are one thing, but I never want to be the guy you can pin as “into fashion” from across the street. I’ve been dabbling with a more “experimental” style these days, and I’ve begun to look at that shiny stuff like it's the girl I meant to talk to in high school. Do note that this guide will not cover jewelry such as watches or piercings.
I’m here to tell you about how and why I made this transition.
A Necessary Risk
Consider any example of an expressive style and I’m sure you’ll see how polarizing these looks can be. It doesn’t take much to put a look over the edge and I think people would much rather dabble on the safe side than venture into the unknown.
Don't get me wrong, remaining on the safe side of things is fine. A lot of people are content to stay there forever, there’s no reason to venture away from the simple comfort of jeans/tee/sneakers - and I’m sure the same applies to oxford/chinos/dress-shoes or whatever other combination you find most wearable.
You could spend the rest of your life in that zone and no one would bat an eye - I’d even commend you for your efforts - I’m sure you’ll eventually take that combo to the next level. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, try wearing the same basic outfit, six out of seven days a week, for a year. I mean it - you’ll do great things - but I'll save the rest of this idea for another time.
I never actually set out to complete this experiment but you'll never see me in anything but jeans and a t-shirt. I like to think I’m qualified to speak to the results and I’ve discovered that the simplest of combos can only be done so well - less is more! There’s a limit in how good an outfit can be - and it’s inevitable that you’ll reach this limit, so long as you’re continuously striving for improvements.
So what do you do when you feel like you’ve reached simple-combo-nirvana? Obviously, one might reach to outerwear. Unfortunately it’s currently early September, and I’m breaking out in sweat because this freaking beam of sunlight is coming in through the window. As much as I’d love to suck it up, break out my jackets, and layer up... it’s just not an option yet. So, for whatever reason, let’s pretend layering isn’t an option for a few minutes here. The only alternative to layer-experimentation that I could conceive was the all-so frightening idea of experimenting with jewelry.
So there I was. A day trip to NYC and a pitstop in the A.P.C. store later, I had my first bracelet.
Picking Your Perfect Piece
You’re not alone if you’ve never dealt with jewelry before. But I’m sure you’re wondering... Where do you even begin?
Jewelry has to be something that you feel strongly about. I like to think jewelry is like an impermanent tattoo. The way I see it, neither of them has to have sentimental value. However, if it does have sentimental value, no one will ever try to take that away from you. Wear it all you want and own it.
On the other hand, if it doesn’t have sentimental value - if you just like the way it looks - well I say, more power to you. Just be ready to stand your ground and talk about why you like it. Having a confident answer prepared for the time these questions inevitably arise is a crucial part to ‘pulling it off’ so to speak.
If it doesn’t have sentimental value, and someone else likes the way it looks on you, well don’t look at me for backup when someone inevitably makes a comment.
Potentially Perfect Pieces
I can definitely recommend some styles of jewelry that are easier to put on and subsequently "pull off" than others. Word of warning, I think you’ll see that I aim to keep things aggressively understated… especially when it comes to jewelry.
Here are some general shopping notes:
Cheap jewelry is worthy of some caution. The prices are often lower because cheaper metals are used, some of these metals can actually react with your skin and something like a ring can leave a nice green tarnish on your finger. But who am I kidding, I’ve spent much more more money on much dumber stuff. The budget pieces are worth it for a quick experiment. With the rationale at shopping at budget retailers like HM and Uniqlo, use cheaper jewelry to find out what pieces compliment your style. Brands like Fossil are solid for figuring out a style you like without taking out another student loan. I've even seen bracelet and necklace "packs" at HM for around $15.
While I’m talking about experimentation, necklaces in general are easier to conceal than a bracelet. This is great if you’re particularly self-conscious about these things, because you’ll have more time to see how you feel about your jewelry before that first comment inevitably arrives.
Hnng. I love these things. There's just something so pure about a bracelet that is (externally) unmarked and unbranded. You can just slip it on every morning and forget about it. It doesn’t get much more understated, which means it’ll look just as great in a cheap bar as it will at a nice restaurant. You really can't go wrong with any color here, but I prefer to stick with matte black, polished gunmetal, and either matte or polished silver.
Plain Cuff with Interesting Clasp
My first piece came from this category. There’s something utterly endearing about the way you can say more with less. I don’t know what it is about these things that does it for me but, damn, when you can find an interesting way to do the same-old mundane task of “keeping something together” just shut up and take my money.
For wrist use ONLY. Bead bracelets are typically constructed with an inner elastic band holding the individual spheres in place. There are quite a bit of options available when it comes to this category of wristwear: from a tasteful black and silver display all the way to being that guy. Though not really jewelry at all, I've been seeing a lot of those Lokai bracelets around recently. They have water from Mt. Everest and mud from the Dead Sea and is supposed to have some sort of spiritual significance. Whether or not you buy into that is completely up to you, however.
Chain Necklaces Without Adornments
I enjoy these, a lot, but I’m afraid to cheap out on them for some reason. I think these are best if you have a little to spend - when you can throw a little more cash at your accessories you’ll be able to afford the heftier, thicker, shinier chains - the ones that will last longer and look better the whole time. Definitely do some research into this if it's something you may be interested in.
Chain Necklaces With Adornments
This is totally up to your personal taste, but if you can find something that really vibes with your look, go for it as long as you don't go too overboard and accidentally become a mutant monster slayer. This is a very popular category of jewelry to any sort of religious pendants to.
Tie bars are one of those things that you never knew you needed 'til you get one. Aside from functionally serving to secure your tie to your shirt, they're a pretty classy way to add some flair to your business casual or professional looks. Not to mention, they come in an insane variety of different styles and compositions. Here's a set of 3 colors for under 20 bucks - great deal for seeing if tie bars match your style!
wear what you like.
The same goes for all of these pieces. You’ll be nervous putting it on for the first time. You’ll feel weird until that cold metal chain acclimates to your skin temperature. You’ll feel weird until the silver cuff molds precisely to the shape of your wrist. You’ll feel weird until other’s curiosity begins to feel welcoming.
You may feel weird at first, but that’s okay. What is pursuing your own essence of style if not feeling uncomfortable for short periods of time?
I can tell you right now that this feeling may never go away. You’ll just build up a tolerance and eventually find yourself seeking greater highs.
And that’s when you’ll finally pull it off.