Think 1536. A Tudor king poses in a gold-embroidered cloak and his finest jewels. Hans Holbein furiously paints countless rows of pearls onto what would become the most iconic portrait of Henry VIII. In the 21st century, however, it’s no longer ruby rings and feathered hats that shout hyper-masculinity, it’s heavy chains and gold mouth grills. Centuries of aristocratic men have worn jewellery to shout their wealth and power, and in the modern world of hip hop, not much has changed. While Henry VIII almost certainly did not have a bejewelled mobile-phone cover, his royal finery made a statement of masculinity not unlike Offset’s three-million-dollar jewellery collection. However, with the increasing popularity of gender fluidity, macho ‘masculine’ jewellery seems to be taking a step back.
With Harry Styles wearing a pearl earring to the 2019 Met Gala, some celebrities are starting to ditch the hyper-masculine gold chains for something more expressive. Lil Nas X has even showcased a hint of 70s glam rock with a sparkly Christian Cowan suit and matching silver jewellery. At last year’s Paris Fashion Week, Ezra Miller opted for lipstick, earrings, and a gilded hair grip, feminizing men’s jewellery with Wildean decadence. One thing’s for sure: we’ve grown tired of gender norms. Men in sheer blouses and bling are no longer seen as ridiculous but merely considered comfortable in their sexuality. If anything, Harry Styles’ wearing fishnet tights for a Beauty Papers photoshoot made more girls (and boys) swoon than a man in a suit would any day.
The menswear suits of AW19 were just the tip of the iceberg. From the glittering pins that clung to Dolce & Gabbana’s suits, to Alexander McQueen’s jewel-encrusted knitwear, brooches seemed to be making a comeback. Gone are the days when they were exiled to Grandma’s jewellery box – in 2019, we saw the likes of Chadwick Boseman, leading star of Black Panther, walk the red carpet in a suit made glamourous with Tiffany diamond brooches. Colette Neyrey, jewellery designer for Maison Coco, claimed that “a brooch is an artful form of self-expression”. “So, when I see a man wearing a brooch,” she said, “I know that he’s a very confident man … and there’s nothing sexier”. This attitude was carried into AW20.
On the runway, a simple suit is no longer enough, and Pierpaolo Piccioli agrees. Showcasing the Valentino AW20 menswear, he declared that “for the young generation, [a suit] is not a uniform”, “it is not something ‘proper’ that belongs to the office. Now it’s just another proposition”. With Gen Z as their future clientele, designers are turning their attention to accessories to help transform their menswear collections into something that will quench the thirst for gender fluidity. “Feminine touches on very tough shoes”, he said, waving a hand at the sequined shoes on the runway, “you don’t change the shape, but you change the spirit”. The glittering pink hair grips that brighten his otherwise sombre black suits do precisely this, and Piccioli isn’t the only one.
For Dior Homme, brooches are no longer restricted to the lapel of a jacket. Artistic Director, Kim Jones, served us grey satin blazers and romantic opera coats furnished with dangling chandelier-like brooches at his AW20 show. The ballroom theme didn’t end there. Blazers were synched at the waist and paired with evening gloves trimmed with pearls, elaborate hanging necklaces adding to the look. Paired with the models’ slicked back hair and minimalist earrings, Jones’ romantic collection gave us a new way for men to participate in feminine glamour. While female models walking the runway in menswear has become somewhat of a norm, this new style offers a sense of androgyny we’ve not yet experienced. We are not seeing Dior men dressing up as Dior girls, we see them taking on a new identity altogether.
If one designer understands that jewellery makes the outfit – its Sebastien Meunier. This season, his designs for Ann Demeulemeester gave us strong-shouldered jackets and skinny jumpsuits synched with curves of wire, the half-belt half-necklace pieces ornamented with bronze and silver encrusted ivy leaves. Meunier has declared that they aren’t just showpieces to glamourize an otherwise simple outfit, but to be produced as men’s jewellery in their own right. For Meunier’s collection, artistic jewellery is an essential. It offers more to his outfits than a shark-tooth necklace or expensive watch ever could. His wire-binding outfit pieces might remind you of the glittering Louis Vuitton harness that Timothée Chalamet wore at last year’s Golden Globes. Both on and off the runway, men’s jewellery is becoming less of a controversial accessory and more of a unique outfit in itself. This burgeoning trend is a new kind of men’s jewellery, a tentative toe testing the waters of gender fluidity. Harry Styles’ pearl earring? Just the beginning.