The men’s wear market has been outpacing women’s for a while, and by 2019, it will have grown to $480 billion. Although there aren’t any jewellery specific studies, it’s clear that the attitude towards men wearing jewelry has dramatically shifted. Claybrook’s own range of necklaces, rings and earrings for men features a mix of masculine and gender neutral designs, as well as options that lie outside the spectrum. To help understand how we got here, here’s our own abridged history of men’s jewelry trends:
Early History of Men’s Jewelry
The wearing of something as simple as earrings was considered feminine until the late 20th century. However, dozens of cultures have had their own traditions of men exclusively adorning themselves with metal:
- In ancient Rome, women were expected to wear a broad range of jewellery. Men on the other hand would wear at least a single ring (though some would wear one on every finger). Others used the engravings on the ring to sign documents - a practice that would later be adopted by neighbouring countries after the Roman empire fell.
- The Eastern successor to Rome, the Byzantine empire, continued the tradition of men wearing a single ring compared to the selection of jewelry worn by women. Meanwhile Celt society saw a striking increase in jeweled weaponry.
- Within India, jewelry has an almost divine status with royalty. So much so, that gold ornaments could only be worn on the feet of the Maharaja and the ruling class - for anyone to do otherwise would be tarnishing the sacred metals. With the common people, jewelry was worn mostly by women, though men in the Indus Valley wore beads in their hair.
- The Iranians, fond of their long beards, also decorated them. Men in the Achaemenid era wore their beards very long, and warriors commonly adorned theirs with jewelry such as golden discs and pins.
The Rise of Modern Male Jewellery
It’s fascinating how some of the historical trends listed above continued right into the 20th century. There has always been an attempt to curb excess with male jewellery. For example, in the 1950s it was considered acceptable for men to wear rings, but only one! When Amy Vanderbilt (an American authority on etiquette) published her guide to gracious living, she dismissed the idea of male earrings, and said men should only wear antique seal rings. Any man who wore more than that was “just plain theatrical and affected”.
The major change came with the development of office culture, and the wrist watch. For almost the first time, there was a typical male jewelry item, chosen for its practicality and style. This developed into a booming industry, which later allowed for the popularity of cufflinks, tie clips and rings.
It’s highly unlikely that the men’s jewelry market will ever eclipse women’s - current trends show that men are still too fussy when it comes to accessories! However, the data shows that the jewelry market will evolve much like the apparel industry has. If that’s the case, then men’s jewelry in 2020 will be highly dynamic, truly globalised and intensely competitive...