Anyone who doubts 2019 will be the year of the men's necklace must have fashion accessories for 2019 need look no further than the latest menswear shows in London, Milan and Paris, where designers unveiled what fashion-forward men will be wearing next year. There they were, at show after show: necklaces so large and elaborate, they often dominated entire outfits.
At Gucci, models wore long strings of chunky gold and silver baubles or thick chokers made with tiny chain-links. Dior menswear designer Kim Jones collaborated with jeweller du jour Yoon Ahn on thick silver chains featuring the brand's C and D insignia. (Jones himself is rarely photographed these days without gold and silver necklaces.) And at Alexander McQueen, there were necklaces made from black Swarovski crystals and medallion pendants.
Keen style watchers may have foreseen this development: young male celebrities including pop star Harry Styles (the current face of Gucci) and actor/singer Jaden Smith have embraced jewellery and other traditionally feminine signifiers such as lace. In the world of American hip hop, which has a long association with aggressive masculinity and gold chain necklaces, a small but growing number of men – such as super-producer Pharrell and rapper Young Thug – are rejecting the gender binary by wearing explicitly female clothing and accessories.
Of course, not all men's necklaces are as outré as those shown on the runway. It may just be that a growing trend among men to wear simple chains or pendants in their day-to-day lives is what is encouraging high-fashion designers to focus on neckwear.
The global market for men's jewellery grew from $US4.3 billion in 2012 to $US5.3 billion last year, Euromonitor International reports, while another market research company, NPD Group, says necklaces now account for about 25 per cent of men's jewellery sales in the United States.
In Australia too, many players in the men's style business believe the buzz around necklaces is more than a fad.
Patrick Johnson of renowned Australian menswear brand P Johnson Tailors launches his debut jewellery collection on November 16 with three chain necklaces (5 each) and three chain bracelets ( each).
"A huge number" of his clients, businessmen and professionals, already wear necklaces, says Johnson.
"I love this trend and feel like it will stick around for a while. There is certainly something sexy about necklaces."
Mark Boldiston, who owns Melbourne men's jewellery store Lord Coconut, says there has been a marked increase in necklace sales since the boutique opened in 2010. His customers appreciate their versatility.
"The possibilities are endless," says Boldiston. "Do you wear it just above your collarbone or low on the chest? Inside the shirt or outside? And do you pick a pendant or just a plain chain? We find that men are quite particular when it comes to necklace choice.
"The guys who wear short chains are usually older, often with chest hair," he says. "The younger guys who don't shy away from waxing their chests will often go for something that sits lower."
For many men, necklace styles are dictated by their workplace. Many of Johnson's white-collar customers don't feel comfortable showing off necklaces at work, so will opt for something that can be concealed beneath shirt and tie. By contrast, says Boldiston, men in creative industries are unfazed at, say, wearing a long necklace with a pendant over a T-shirt. And, he says, there are some professionals – including lawyers and IT workers – who now buy pendants to wear outside office hours.
Lord Coconut stocks pieces by more than 40 Australian jewellers – up from 20 when the store opened – with a particular focus on pendants. Many of Boldiston's clients affix them to gold chains or leather straps they already own. The pendants are mainly fashioned from sterling silver and range in price from about 0 to 0.
Key designers include David Parker, who makes rectangular pendants with striking motifs such as stags, and Ginkoh Jewellery, which creates made-to-order pieces including pendants displaying clients' fingerprints.
Drew Laidlaw Hoare, a former employee of P Johnson Tailors in Sydney and marketing director of British style magazine The Rake, wears a thin gold chain necklace that his fiancée gave him prior to their wedding in Italy. "It also has a gold St Francis of Assisi pendant that we bought in Rome on our honeymoon," he says.
Hoare points out that men of various backgrounds have long worn simple, concealed necklaces that have a family or religious connection. What's changing is that a greater number of men now feel comfortable wearing a necklace openly, or purely as an aesthetic statement.
For those men, he cautions: "I do think the general rule of 'less is more' that applies to men's jewellery in general holds true for necklaces."
Other men's style gurus believe the trend has gone too far.
"You won't be seeing any necklaces around my neck," says Steve Calder, the owner of Melbourne menswear store Calder Sartoria, which specialises in Italian tailoring. "I believe the fewer – and less gaudy – accessories a man wears, the better. A deeply meaningful or religious necklace – again, not gaudy – is an exception, but perhaps it is more tasteful to tuck in the necklace, only showing a small amount around the sides of the upper neck."
Melbourne-based menswear designer Christian Kimber, who trained on Savile Row, says self-awareness is key. "I've met some incredibly well-dressed men in Tokyo with numerous gold and turquoise necklaces with silver feathers and they looked very masculine," he says. "But I have also met men who look bad in necklaces.
"It really depends on whether a necklace is part of your authentic style or whether you're just wearing it for fashion.
"Style is being true to yourself, whereas fashion would be wearing a necklace for 'the look'. If you constantly wear a piece then that's your style. It's part of you, and that's cool to me."
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