Men, jewellery, and new gender norms

Silvia Bizzarra

In history, there have been times when men wore gold and jewels as much as (or even more than) women. From the Sultans and the Maharajas of India to the European royal families-at, abundant jewellery on male rulers was normal and thought necessary.

The gradual abolition of monarchies and the emergence of gender conventions changed this trend, and relegated men to wear basic jewellery like cufflinks and wedding bands.

This trend allowed a few exceptions over time, for example in the world of hip-pop, heavy gold chains and bracelets, rings, mouth grills, and tooth caps have always been mainstream style symbols. But in rap and hip-hop subcultures, male ostentation of dress has little to do with gender liberation. Conversely, the number of precious stones a man wears could be said to coincide with his position of masculinity in society.

The rap and hip-hop subcultures are exceptions, but it is safe to say that jewellery is regularly a female domain. Interestingly, now we´re seeing men experimenting with it more than before. What has fastened this process is the loosing up of codes governing masculinity, and with this, the conventional barriers between feminine and masculine fashion are blurring. Teen icons Harry Styles and Timothée Chalamet are redefining the rules of masculinity in Hollywood by allowing themselves to be feminine and wear pearls and sophisticated “female” jewellery.

Recent research conducted by Pew Research Centre* shows that this shift has been induced by Gen Z and Millennials who, differently from their older peers, are highly concerned about gender identity and social norms, and are addressing new perceptions and realities around gender through powerful tools like social media. Goldsmith´s Company in London, one of the venerable medieval guilds, confirms this shift and says that young men are spending more on themselves and are increasingly interested in decoration other than watches.

We all agree that wearing extravagant accessories will not become the next cool trend for the majority of men, but the redefinition of gender norms is encouraging them to find new ways to convey their individuality and one of these avenues is jewellery.

So what will new jewellery collections be like?

The next jewellery collections are predicted to encourage men to think beyond the classics. Many boys today really enjoy the journey of finding something right for them, and this is an opportunity for them to explore themselves beyond fashion, it becomes a very personal matter. Taken as a whole, the increasing trend for male jewellery is heartening. Up to now, women have had most of the fun; maybe it really is time for men to have a turn. Who knows, one day soon we will go to shops with our boyfriends buying earrings.