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How Jewellery Is Crossing the Gender Barrier

By Lynette Kee

A tasteful balance of masculine elements and feminine allure presented in State Property’s Unfold Homme collection.
 
State Property
A tasteful balance of masculine elements and feminine allure presented in State Property’s Unfold Homme collection.

Men’s dressing has come a long way. Jewellery, for one, has become quintessential statements of style and personality. This trend has evolved from several years ago, since the birth of menswear fashion week in 2012. 

On the catwalk, jewellery has become as genderless and bold as its fashion counterpart. Consider Gucci’s Fall 2019 menswear: Alessandro Michele sent models styled in 2-inch-long spiked chokers and long chains draped over oversized blazers and patterned sweatshirts down the runway. On his accessories, the showman nonpareil shared, post-show, that he views clothes the same way — as a means to “become what we feel we are.” 

A contrasting interpretation, but equally as groundbreaking, was presented at Celine’s Spring 2020 menswear show. Hedi Slimane styled his army of models in French chic silhouette paired with understated jewellery, layering dainty pendant necklaces with pearl necklaces. 

Whether it’s an over-the-top statement necklace or a simple touch of elevation with a ring or a bracelet, jewellery adorning brings a certain sense of wholeness to an outfit. “[Watches are] no longer the only accessory for a man. Instead, a tasteful piece of jewellery can distinguish and elevate what otherwise would be a uniform,” said Afzal Imran, co-founder of Singapore-based jewellery brand, State Property, in an interview with T Singapore. “We believe there comes a point where long-established rules and conventions need to be tweaked a little, to allow for growth and a forward momentum, and the rules of dressing for men has reached this point.” 

State PropertyFrom left: State Property’s Unfold Allegory Major Noir bracelet lends versatility to elevate any outfit; subtle pearl-adorned cufflinks by State Property.
From left: State Property’s Unfold Allegory Major Noir bracelet lends versatility to elevate any outfit; subtle pearl-adorned cufflinks by State Property.
Carrie K. JewelleryCarrie K. explores the unconventional rules of men’s jewellery through the world of pearls.
Carrie K. explores the unconventional rules of men’s jewellery through the world of pearls.

Carolyn Kan, founder of Carrie K. Jewellery, shares that, traditionally, the sartorial man steers clear of accessorising with jewellery or stone-set pieces to “avoid [being stereotyped] a peacock or feel emasculated”. A sort of post-modern masculinity, however, sees more men becoming more confident in wearing jewellery. 

In conversation with T Singapore, Tony Rodrigues, vice president of Jewelry Production at William Henry Studio, an award-winning luxury brand of men’s jewellery based in America, said, “Masculinity is evolving. The appearance of being a strong man [no longer] comes from being macho, [but] from being confident without being cocky or aggressive”. 

Rodrigues also shared that millennials, Gen X and Gen Z are driving this trend as art and individuality becomes common language amongst them, assisted by the internet and social media. In addition to that, fashion runways and celebrity influences further “accelerates that influence,” he added. This observation is shared by Kan when she pointed out that “many fashion editors and influencers were spotted wearing pearls [during the Spring Summer 2020 men’s fashion week in Milan].” 

Celebrities like American rapper Pharrell Williams, singer John Mayer and Hiroshi Fujiwara, known to be the godfather of Japan’s streetwear scene are some amongst many others to be seen picking up on the trend and making jewellery part of their style and identity. 

William HenryFrom left: Beaded jewellery from William Henry is treated with a touch of edge; the seamless integration of natural element, precious metal and gemstones makes the hallmark of William Henry’s jewellery.
From left: Beaded jewellery from William Henry is treated with a touch of edge; the seamless integration of natural element, precious metal and gemstones makes the hallmark of William Henry’s jewellery.

As men from all over the world start viewing jewellery as part of the outfit, tastes in design and materials seem to be merging as well — further blurring the lines between men’s and women’s choices. Those in jewellery businesses identified pearls and fine jewellery as the latest trends in the industry. Imran sees it as part of a “growing sophistication in taste” and the “desire to collect pieces that are distinctive and unique”. More specifically, Kan explained, that while men are more comfortable with designs that used to be only worn by women, they “tend to have fewer accessories that they wear constantly”, which is perhaps why most men gravitate towards bespoke jewellery. “We have clients [requesting to] customise single 12mm gunmetal grey Tahiti Pearl for a necklace, which [looks] simple, confident and very masculine.”

It is, ultimately, trends like these that are behind the change in designers’ thinking. At William Henry, Rodrigues said, “We try to design towards having choices that can work for a variety of taste.” Like fashion, genderless jewellery is no longer a novelty, but its popularity is fast gaining momentum, and in turn, opening more doors to a creative future for the next generation of consumers.