Accessories can make the man . . . or unmake him

Accessories can make the man . . . or unmake him

Q. My boyfriend wears cufflinks, a gold watch on one wrist, and a silver bracelet on the other. You talked about overdoing accessories, this seems too much; do you agree?

A. Yes, I do agree with you. Accessories can make the man . . . or unmake him; this is true with basic clothing accessories and even more so with jewelry. I will begin my response by openly stating my dislike of men’s bracelets and other non-gentlemanly jewelry, such as chains and over-sized glitzy elements. While there are certainly younger men who disagree, in my opinion, well-dressed, class-act, men do not wear them.

The choice of accessories and what is and isn’t appropriate depends on the man, his age, his background, the setting, and the subtlety or gaudiness of the specific items. Here are some examples: 

Rings: One ring–wedding or school/family–on a left ring finger is always acceptable, and two (both of those examples) with one on each ring finger is less acceptable, but more than two or any other finger are too many and wrong.

Watches: Either choose a not-too-chunky sports watch or a tastefully quiet dress watch in the same color metal as other items (gold, silver or, perhaps, black).

Bracelets/earrings/necklaces – again, I dislike all of these on men, but know that others feel differently and I would not deny a man’s wearing his father’s dog-tags.

Tie clips/clasps are fine if one likes them and if they are not too large. The metal should match the other colors worn (gold or silver). 

Cufflinks are essential with French-cuff shirts;  they should not be larger than a dime and not set with clear, glittery gems. 

Shirt studs are worn with formal black-tie attire. As with cufflinks, they may be gold, silver, enamel, or opaque stones such as onyx, mother-of-pearl, or lapis lazuli (again, no clear stones). 

Lapel pins are an unnecessary accessory; they present too many opportunities for negative discourse.  

Wearing too many accessories, even when each one of the items above might be fine on its own, combined they cause a problem.  I’ll further explain below.   

As I mentioned last month, there are other accessories suited and unsuited to a man’s wardrobe. Suitable ones include such obvious basics as neckties, pocket squares, scarves, sunglasses, socks, hats, and umbrellas. Most of the unsuitable ones are additional variations on men’s jewelry, such as too shiny metal buttons on navy blazers, showy  belt buckles, shoe buckles, and canes with noticeable metal/jeweled handles. Not only does a well-dressed man not need to add any of these eye-catching items, but he is well-advised to eliminate most of them.  

My thoughts on the choice of accessories that two different men might choose are: the flashy salesman wants to project success with clothes that say  “Look at me; I can afford these,”  while the tasteful banker’s clothes say, “I am serious, conservative, and responsible. I can be trusted with your finances.”

With men’s accessories, and especially with men’s jewelry, there are so many possible ways to go wrong. A man should be on guard against making classless mistakes. Choices should reflect a man’s timeless, classic good taste and his ongoing good judgement. 

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