Masculinity in western culture has a bedrock of traits that seem divergent, at first, to the wearing of modern art jewellery. If you imagine, for a moment, those jewellery types that are supposedly socially acceptable to men- either practical, functional items or jewellery to denote social belonging or status within a particular group. For instance, within the military it is expected for men to wear dog tags, medals and pins as a social codes that indicates a man’s name, rank and deeds. Similarly, men are comfortable with small, plain religious jewellery such as a crucifix or star of David, or the modern wedding band. It terms of purely functional jewellery, we see the use of tie pins to secure a man’s tie to his shirt, or cufflinks for french cuffs, where the decorative element of the form is secondary to the function.
So- why art jewellery for men? Surely there is no market of men looking for beautiful, decorative art that has only a minimum nod towards a functional purpose?
Although there is a recent history of understated, plain jewellery for men, there is an even greater history of decorative jewellery for both sexes- especially when considering the way that jewellery is often a social indicator of power and status. Men who control wealth control the ability to determine fashion. Kings are rarely depicted without gold chains and medallions, gold chased weapons, rings and brooches. Similarly, in Ancient Rome, only certain class ranks were permitted to wear rings. The concept that jewellery or decorative items on men may be effeminate is a relatively modern fixation- jewellery is at base a form of social currency, and the pillars of desire within western society for wealth and power and romantic or social connection (which stems from the desirability of the man as a breadwinner, and not just a winning personality) should lend itself to the increase of men who want great jewellery- to be functional, yes, but also unique and trendsetting and decorative.
Here at Knave & Fables we have watched men embrace the world of the dapper gent. We love that men are wearing dinner jackets and slim, fashion suits. We love pocket squares that are made from antique patterned scarves, and we love screen printed silk ties, and lapel flowers, and fine leather shoes. We love that men can be seen to care about their appearance without it encroaching on their perceived masculinity- looking good leads to confidence, which leads to success.
We know it can be done- before the early 20th century the wedding band was exclusively worn by the woman, and now the vast majority of ceremonies incorporate an exchange of rings as the vows are spoken. Now a man wears his wedding band as a mark of pride and belonging, right along side the cuff his wife bought him for Christmas that matches his designer watch. The market for men’s jewellery is not young, it is not new, but it is suffering from a current lack of balls. So, mostly, we would like to give men back the confidence to be couture.
– Danielle K. Day