The cultural impact of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” has influenced the way men think about and buy fine jewelry, as well as clothes and beauty products.
Specialty department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue have experienced increases in demand for men’s jewelry in precious metal and sterling silver. The trend is also encouraging fine jewelers to expand their collections for male consumers.
Colby McWilliams, vice president of men’s fashion and merchandise development at Neiman’s, said he has seen a significant increase in men’s jewelry business in the last five years.
“A lot of the collections for fall, like Dolce [& Gabbana], showed lots of jewelry with everything,” McWilliams said. “A lot of people are a little more flamboyant than they were — men are wearing velvet.”
McWilliams sees the resurgence of men’s jewelry as a reference to the late Sixties and early Seventies — the days of pinky rings and gold necklaces for men, which was an inspiration for the recent runway collections.
Michael Macko, men’s fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, also notes a shift. “It’s such an exciting time in men’s wear,” he said. “Part of it is because of magazines like Cargo, Vitals and Vogue Man, which is about to be launched. Men have more advice [on style] than ever. There’s a new generation of [young] guys that have never worn cuff links and they think it’s the coolest thing.”
Robert Burke, senior vice president for the fashion office and public relations of Bergdorf Goodman, said, “[We’ve experienced] an increase in jewelry sales overall.”
Although the store does not offer many men’s necklaces and bracelets, it does offer rare men’s vintage watches, like a Rolex with a bright red face, of which the store sold 28 last holiday season.
“I’m seeing a significant amount of designer jewelry that is becoming popular,” Burke said. “There’s a young designer customer who has not had the opportunity [to wear jewelry] and is doing so in a casual way.”
The category, once considered somewhat tacky or uncool, has transcended from chunky gold ID bracelets and onyx-laden rings to subtle beaded surfer necklaces and fine watches in yellow and rose gold, bedecked with diamonds and precious stones.
The influence may have trickled down from the red carpet, said Stanislas de Quercize, president and chief executive officer of Cartier North America.
“Diamond watches are becoming more popular with men,” de Quercize said. “There was a huge reaction [for us] when Morgan Freeman, who is very elegant, wore a Cartier diamond watch to the Oscars this year.”
He said Cartier has seen such an increase in requests for men’s jewelry that it launched a Santos men’s jewelry line last September. The line includes bracelets, pendants, rings and cuff links in yellow gold and two-tone white that are based on the classic linear watch with its screw-head details. Some pieces include colored stones.
Jacob Arabo, famous for draping the rich and famous in his hip-hop-inspired baubles, believes that men have always wanted to festoon themselves.
“About 10 years ago when I started a line of platinum and diamond men’s jewelry, everyone thought I was crazy,” Arabo said. “Six years later, I couldn’t make enough.”
Thirty-five percent of Jacob & Co.’s store inventory is men’s jewelry. The jeweler said he sells his outrageous watches and jewelry to ceo’s, athletes and musicians. Some of the company’s bestsellers are diamond crosses and diamond-encrusted dog tags.
Tiffany & Co. is honing in on the men’s trend, as well.
“Men want more options…to go beyond just wearing the basics, by accessorizing with bracelets, earrings, rings and necklaces,” said Melvyn Kirtley, group vice president of Tiffany.
Kirtley said Tiffany is increasing the amount of men’s jewelry by adding new collections and continuing to create lines that have components that work for men and women.
David Yurman has had a men’s line for 15 years. The designer’s 23-year-old son, Evan, heads up the men’s division. The younger Yurman recently incorporated black-and-white pave diamonds, leather and titanium, as well as colorful gemstones to the assortment.
“Our [overall] business has had serious double-digit increases — men’s is 9 to 10 percent of that,” said David Yurman. “Men have been so suppressed by conservative culture, but by nature men are more apt to dress up. [Men] have more of a flair. Just look at the animal kingdom — the male peacock is the interesting color.”
Fine jewelry lost some of its connotation of femininity when athletes like David Beckham and musicians, including Jay-Z, started wearing serious ice.
“People started to take notice when these successful businessmen [started wearing diamonds],” said Nak Armstrong, co-designer of Anthony Nak. “It makes the concept of wearing jewelry other than a gold chain more acceptable.”
Anthony Nak is launching a men’s line featuring its signature brightly colored faceted stones in chain-set metal work.
Jeweler Garrard has a significant men’s offering.
“Male figures in popular culture have definitely paved the way,” said creative director Jade Jagger. “Role models in music and sport, who clearly love wearing jewelry, have raised the awareness. Men have realized that jewelry and accessories don’t necessarily equate with femininity.”
Garrard’s pieces are striking yet wearable. A white gold angel’s wing encrusted in white diamonds is popular among men, as is a white gold ring with an extended line of pave diamonds that stretches across two fingers. With influences like her boyfriend, his friends and her pet guinea pigs, Jagger, based in Ibiza, Spain, is going forward with black pearls for men in coming collections.
The NoLIta-based company Me&Ro has offered men’s jewelry since it started in 1991, mostly in semiprecious beads with gold details. Robin Renzi, designer for Me&Ro, said her men’s business in Barneys New York has doubled in the past two years.
“Before it was superfluous ornamentation, now it’s modern, more like an amulet,” she said.
The jeweler now offers hand-beaded necklaces of Peruvian opal, lapis lazuli and rutilated quartz. One of the firm’s signature looks for men is a flat gold skull with diamonds in the eyes.
“The overall men’s business has grown 50 percent,” Renzi said. “We sell $8,000 [men’s] rings.”
Karen Karch, designer for Push, launched a men’s collection earlier this month.
“All of a sudden, men are wearing Seven and Diesel jeans, and they look great,” said Karch. “Men are getting more like women in their shopping. They want things to define their personalities. Jewelry is a way to enhance your individuality.”
Karch’s collection features hand-hammered gold rings with black rose-cut diamonds and other precious stones.
“It could be the next phase of the metrosexual,” she said.
Sharon Buntain, ceo and president for North America of Links of London, said, “[We’ve experienced] a 15 percent increase in men’s [jewelry] over the past year.”
Buntain said the number of men’s products doubled for fall, compared with this spring.
Mark Udell, owner of London Jewelers, said he is doubling the space for men’s jewelry throughout his stores to about 4 percent in time for this year’s holiday season.
“There’s a tremendous demand [among men] for something very interesting,” Udell said. “It’s not just a heavy gold-link bracelet.”
He said consumers are looking for unique designs and rare materials such as rose gold and titanium.
“I’m looking for that elegant European look — when you see a man on the French or Italian Riviera wearing a beautiful watch and a really interesting bracelet,” Udell added.
John Hardy, whose men’s collection is up 25 percent in Neiman Marcus and is also up 40 percent at Saks year-to-date, summed it up by saying adorning oneself, whether man or women, is a force of nature.
“Wearing jewelry is elemental,” he said. “When you look at men of centuries past, it was only in the 1950s when men stopped dressing up and accessorizing. Now it’s back.”