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Men: A Growing Market for Luxury Jewelry

If you spend any time on r/jewelry, Reddit’s jewelry forum, you’ll come across a number of posts from anxious men asking, “Is this ring ok for a man?” “Is this too many bracelets for a man?” “Is this chain too feminine for a man?” or even “Can a straight man wear this?” From the more traditional tie bars and pins, lapel pins, watches, and wedding bands, to earrings, bracelets, rings, chains, and pendants, men are branching out. As gender fluidity becomes more accepted in society, the definition of masculinity broadens, and straight men become more comfortable expressing themselves through jewelry. But as these posts demonstrate, there is still some fear over appearing “not masculine” when they wear certain kinds of jewelry.

Addressing Consumer Fears

Though Gen Z in general are pessimistic about the economy than Millennials, which could lead to lower sales among this growing demographic, more Gen Z men are buying jewelry for themselves. They’re also buying more kinds of jewelry beyond the typical kinds of rings, chains, and watches. This is an opportunity for the jewelry industry. First, we have to understand men’s apprehensions, which can be addressed by a brief look at the history of men’s jewelry.

Men’s Jewelry in History

Men wearing jewelry, of course, is nothing new. Gold and gemstones have historically been symbols of wealth, and displaying that wealth through bodily decoration was the purview of social elites, both men and women.

But the history of men’s jewelry isn’t necessarily one of elitism and conspicuous consumption. From the Early Modern Period through the Victorian Era (about 1500-1900), the social consensus surrounding jewelry for men waxed and waned, with European religious figures at times condemning piercings as “barbaric,” the purview of pirates and thieves. There is still something countercultural about a man with a pierced ear or two, whether it’s a metal bar through the upper cartilage or just a diamond stud in the earlobe.

It must be said that the history of men’s jewelry is often told from a Eurocentric perspective. It’s no coincidence that angst over who should wear what kind of jewelry often heightened at times of increased contact with non-European cultures with their own jewelry traditions. These barriers are breaking down, and intercultural exchange means that both European and Asian jewelry taboos (such as the taboo against earrings in China) are being challenged.

Today, rings and chains, alongside functional accessories such as watches, tie bars, and cufflinks, are all mainstream jewelry choices for men of all demographics. More and more, men are breaking out of the traditional to find new modes of self-expression through jewelry. We’re even seeing more men wearing pieces traditionally coded feminine, like brooches and pearls. It’s the beginning of an age where the only thing that matters is if you feel good wearing it.

Celebrity Influence

As is often the case in fashion, celebrities are leading this change in attitudes toward jewelry. A recent Guardian article by Rhik Samadder conveys this point with a blend of bemusement and curiosity: “Men around town are wearing lots of jewelry…. Love Island Lotharios in pearls! Timothée Chalamet in a Cartier candy-inspired necklace! Good lord, Jacob Elordi’s thermometer-busting eyebrow piercing in Saltburn.” He also points to Harry Styles, Leo Woodall, and “sensitive beefcake Paul Mescal'' as influential figures pioneering new ways for men to wear jewelry.  

“Can a Man Wear This?” Yes!

When men ask questions like “can a man wear this?” on internet forums, the answers from their peers are almost unanimous: jewelry doesn’t have a gender, wear what you like, wear it with confidence. This is the message the jewelry industry should be sending to men, as well. We know what “toxic masculinity” looks like, but we don’t see men getting much guidance on what shape a “non-toxic” masculinity might take. Beyond expanding our markets, the jewelry industry has a chance to help define what masculinity looks like in the 21st century: expressive, sensitive, and playful—fearlessly so.