Unless you were the type of guy that took a gap year in Thailand after watching Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Beach”, chances are, like most men, you’ve never thought about wearing a chain or necklace as a fashion statement.
After hearing the old adage, “Men wear watches, women wear jewellery” for the millionth time, it’s completely understandable that many guys are more than a little reticent to compliment their style with any kind of accessory other than a timepiece.
But things are changing:
First came Hollywood, with style icons like Chris Hemsworth and Ryan Gosling sporting subtle but stylish gold chains, and more recently, in the BBC’s TV adaptation of “Normal People”, actor Paul Mescal officially broke the internet with a silver chain so popular it became a meme.
It’s official then: Chains are back, and the coolest guys on the planet are wearing them.
So with that in mind, we’ve put together a style guide to help you choose the right kind of chain to suit your wardrobe and personality. Let’s dive right in:
Historically, chains and necklaces were considered a staple of every masculine male’s wardrobe. Well before Henry VIII was painted sporting a massive gold chain in the famous Hans Holbein portrait, men wore a vast range of chain and necklace styles to show off wealth and even bring good luck. Towards the mid-1600s, flashy neckwear began to fall out of fashion, and didn’t reappear until after the Second World War.
The emergence of Rock and Roll and Teddy Boy culture, combined with a tough, rebellious street style made popular by James Dean, saw men’s jewellery begin to make a comeback. When Disco, and finally Hip Hop brought new, decadent styles all of their own, neck chain fashion had officially peaked.
So what about today?
The newfound love for all things 1990s has created something of a renaissance in men’s jewellery, and necklaces in particular. Instagram influencers and reality TV stars can now be found showing off a massive selection of medallions, pendants and chains, and there’s never been a better time to add a little bling to your own wardrobe…
Before diving in head first, it’s important to consider what material your necklace should be made from.
Right here, we’re going to immediately lay down some ground rules: Avoid anything that gives off hints of the aforementioned “Gap Year Student in Thailand”. That means no leather, and absolutely no beads.
The safest, and most subtly stylish choice then, is to stick to a chain made from either gold or silver.
There’s no right or wrong choice when deciding between gold or silver. As a very general rule, gold jewellery creates contrast and compliments warm tones like orange and brown, whereas silver suits more subtle, wintery shades and clothing styles and is easier to pair with more formal outfits.
Once you’ve decided on a type of metal, it’s time to think about the overall style and length of the chain.
In general, anything between 18 to 22 inches will sit just below the collarbone, and can be tucked into a T-shirt for a more subtle look. For most guys, this is the best length of chain to stick with, and will pair well with lots of different fashions.
Long chains, of 26 to 30 inches (and longer) start to veer into hip-hop territory. Now, that doesn’t mean that long chains are completely out of the question. If you’re confident you can pull the look off, and you’re wardrobe is subtle and on-point, a long chain can make a fantastic statement. Long chains are also a great way to draw attention to a broad chest and give the illusion of a more elongated neck, so that’s another thing to consider before rocking a more ostentatious look.
And as for shorter chains? We’d say they’re best avoided. Anything under 18 inches could put you in “choker” territory, and that’s a difficult look for most men to pull off!
Chain links come in a vast range of styles. In general though, the most popular link style for men is the “Cable Link” chain. This style pairs well with most wardrobe choices, and you can find cable link chains in all sorts of different length and thicknesses.
Looking for something a little different?
Try a herringbone or Franco chain for a more fluid and showy style, or experiment with a thicker rope chain for a tougher, more masculine look. If you’re really looking to up the ante and inject a little British urban style into your wardrobe, look for a “Belcher Chain”, a style of link that’s made from individual round or oval loops closed together into a heavy-duty chain that’s named after vintage Bare Knuckle Boxer Jem Belcher.
Rumour has it that Ryan Gosling has the tag of his beloved and now deceased dog George attached to his neck chain.
You don’t need a heart wrenching backstory yourself, but a subtle pendant can add a touch of personality to your chain if you’re daring enough to take the plunge.
If wearing a pendant makes you feel self-conscious, don’t worry. It’s totally fine (and often preferable) to keep things simple with a subtle chain. But for those willing to give it a shot, it’s best to select a pendent that combines something of your personality with a timeless style that will stay in fashion for the foreseeable future. If you can find a unique pendant with a back-story, all the better!
There is one old-fashioned rule concerning jewellery that’s worth sticking to:
Don’t mix metals.
If you have a silver watch and a silver ring, never wear a gold necklace (and vice versa). Try and keep all of your jewellery the same color, or better yet, stick to a single, subtle item at a time.
When it comes to outfits, longer necklaces and pendents pair well with V-neck T-shirts and sweaters, as the chain will follow the line of the “V”. Beyond that, try to keep things simple: A white T-shirt and gold necklace is a timeless and subtle look, and sits well with a leather jacket or jeans.
If you’re going to wear a chain with any form of tailoring, just make sure you don’t unbutton your shirt too far, or else you’ll risk giving off a 1970s disco or Miami vibe that’s usually rather difficult to pull off!
Gold and silver chains are seeing a huge fashion comeback, and if you have the confidence to experiment with different lengths and styles, they can be a fantastic accessory to compliment your wardrobe!
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