Is Male Bling the Next Big Thing?

With Father’s Day here, I’d love to get the special dads in my life some shiny trinkets as a token of my admiration.

Not fishing lures, not a Leatherman, certainly not an iPhone, but something more sentimental — like jewellery.

The problem is that most of the men I know don’t wear jewellery.

Men who do sport the sparkle might have one or two simple pieces that are sentimental in nature.

My colleague Jordan Stackhouse, the only man in our offi ce who wears anything other than a checkered shirt to work every day, is also one of the few men I know who wears jewellery on a daily basis — two small earrings, a Buddhist bracelet, and a watch. “For me, I work in a pretty corporate environment, so wearing jewellery is a way of keeping a bit of my true self,” he says.

He claims nobody in his entire adult life has ever asked him about the jewellery he wears, nor any other aspect of his appearance.

By contrast, women often change their jewellery with each outfit. Some pieces are sentimental, some are valuable, many are merely decorative. Jewellery is a common conversation starter among women.

Why then, does your average man consider a baseball hat an acceptable accessory and not a silver bracelet?

There have certainly been times and places throughout history when men have adorned themselves to show accomplishments and wealth. King Tut wasn’t just a hoarder. And Modern society is still concerned with status.

A cursory survey of the men at my neighbourhood school bus stop revealed two main reasons why they don’t glam it up on a regular basis.

First, it’s a bother. Brushing one’s hair is an accomplishment, much less matching a golf shirt with the right pair of earrings. Secondly, jewellery gets in the way of day-to-day tasks.

Fair enough. As a person whose only regret about the coming of summer is that I need to change my socks every day, I understand the pain of fashion-related decisions. However, it’s not just inconvenience that makes the chaps avoid the charms. In the past century, men’s jewellery has been restricted to only narrowest of fashion contexts.

Men’s jewellery?” my friend Katy asks. “Nah. It makes me think of hip hop and rap stars.”

Think Run DMC. Think MC Hammer. “Guys used to wear jewellery when I was young,” said Colin, another fortysomething bus stop consultant. “It was a Duran Duran thing. That pretty boy look.”

Male adornment has some poor associations, it seems. Still, I can’t help but think that this is a huge untapped market in the fashion industry. If I were in the business of profiting from mass consumer culture, I’d get off the khakis bandwagon and make male bling the next big thing.

Furthermore, jewellery can be more than mere ornamentation. It can be wearable art, and unlike tattoos, you can take items off every night and put new ones on.

Even our homes wear more jewellery than our menfolk. We adorn our homes in the form of lighting fixtures, furniture, and wall art. A little more personal embellishment would not be out of line. And while you’re at it, get rid of that checkered shirt.

Unfortunately, jewellery in general might not be able to compete with all the other shiny things on the market. Watches are being replaced by phones. Given a choice between sterling silver and a new Fitbit, I’m betting most would choose the gadget.

So back to the drawing board on my Father’s Day gifts.

Maybe a nice pair of Hammer pants?

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