NEW YORK — There’s a fine line not to be crossed when men wear jewelry. Too much can be a put-off but a little glimpse of shine under the collar or cuff can be powerful or even sexy.
The jewelry market has changed lots in recent years, partly as hip-hop’s influence has expanded. So if you’re thinking of giving the man in your life jewelry this Valentine’s Day, don’t be blinded by all that sparkle.
Here’s a guide:
A watch is the entry point for most men in the jewelry market. It’s an item they’re expected to wear, but they have it more for show now than practicality.
“You don’t need one so much,” says hip-hop mogul and fashion entrepreneur Russell Simmons, who launched Simmons Jewelry Co. in 2003. “It’s more like a bracelet. They (men) get the time from their phone or their BlackBerry, so now a watch is basically jewelry.”
Status watches have always helped make the man, he points out.
From there, it’s not a far leap to a bracelet, says Simmons, who alternates between two — one a malachite and rough diamond bracelet from his company’s Green Initiative Collection that raises money for educational programs in Africa, the other a steel bracelet with diamonds.
Something smaller like cuff links or a belt buckle, however, will be less showy.
“A man can say of these, ‘It’s jewelry, but it’s not what my wife wears,” says Ori Zemer, vice president of Charriol North America, a fine jeweler.
Belts in particular seem in line with trends because they’re a way to be brand identified — he notes Prada and Gucci offer signature buckles — but without being blinged out.
Men who are more comfortable wearing traditional jewelry also might consider a jazzed up ring, perhaps a wedding band with diamonds or a ring with nautical-style roping. “The roping is a little rugged,” says Zemer. “It works for a man who is going to the office or a construction worker.
It’s wearable, durable and a cool statement.”
Make it manly
Celebrity stylist Mary Alice Stephenson, holds up rapper T.I. as an example of jewelry gone right: “He’s subtle. He wears one simple chain or a sliver bracelet.
More people can pull that off whether you’re T.I. or John Doe from Wall Street.”
It reads confidence, she says.
If the look feels contrived, though, it will stick out — for all the wrong reasons.
“People will ask, ‘Why is that guy doing it?”’ Stephenson says.
Earrings, she adds, are among the hardest items for men to wear in a masculine way.
True, there are those that look right in them — especially people who fall into the punk or music crowds — but not many suburban guys or even slick urbanites are really part of those worlds, Stephenson says.
“In that world of bands, a lot of the men wear jewelry. It’s not in a contrived, teenage angst way. It’s an artistic expression in the way they’d wear a tattoo. It feels legitimate. You couldn’t say that for most guys.”
Lance Armstrong’s yellow LiveStrong wristband paved the way for bracelets, according to Stephenson. “Lance Armstrong put new meaning into men being allowed to wear something other than a watch around their wrist. If Lance can wear it, they can wear it,” she says.
She’s now noticing leather ties — sometimes with a bead — around men’s wrists as well as the classic rope bracelet. Both looks, though, are young and casual, she warns.
A necklace with a cross, Star of David or an om make a more serious statement, although not necessarily a fashion statement.
“I have an om — that sold out — but it might be part of a whole devotional collection we’re developing,” says Simmons. “The diamond om is very cool. It looks good on men. It’s a simple idea, it makes good sense. The cross is the same.”
“Neither are feminine,” he declares.
The diamond cross, in fact, is Simmons Jewelry’s top-selling item.
Shop for a man
Simmons thinks men’s jewelry is a category poised for growth because of its gift-item potential.
His company commissioned a Harris Interactive online survey of 2,327 American adults to determine the attitudes toward men wearing fine and fashion jewelry. It found that 60 percent of the men polled would consider wearing jewelry other than their wedding bands, watches and cuff links — especially if they were given the items by their significant other.
But Charriol’s Zemer says that women tend to give more standard items, while a man will buy himself a bracelet or necklace. “They’re self purchasers,” he says. “They know what they like and they know what they think is cool.”
Pay attention to the metal a man chooses for his wedding band since it’s likely an indication of what kind of metal he prefers for jewelry, says Detra Segar, vice president and general manager of Tiffany & Co.’s flagship New York store. Keep track of his clothes, too.
“The jewelry he wears should match the style of his clothes,” Segar advises. “For example, a dress watch is inappropriate for casual clothes such as a T-shirt. The same is true for a diamond ring. And bracelets with suits should be subtle and discreet.”