Arki Busson, multi-millionaire hedge fund manager and on-off partner of Uma Thurman, is a man who can dress how he likes for work. For the most part, this means suits and open-neck shirts – nothing too attention-seeking. At least until your eye falls to his wrist. For there, next to his watch, Busson regularly wears ... beads and bangles, charms and straps. Bracelets, in other words.
Though to most English-attuned ears, “bracelet” is a word that is entirely feminised, in French it is le bracelet, and a growing number of noted men have taken this to heart (including Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, whose penchant for a piece of blue string was the object of not entirely positive ruminations in this newspaper by columnist Lucy Kellaway last year).
Not to be confused with the charity wristband fad started by Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong campaign in 2004, these accessories are instead an update of the backpacker souvenirs and friendship bracelets of adolescence: items that represent the wistfulness of travel during the mundanities of day-to-day life, and signal experience beyond the suit.
Luca Rubinacci, a 30-year-old Italian tailor, regularly appears on The Sartorialist blog, thanks to his colourful suits and wrists laden with so many bracelets that in another life he could be mistaken for channelling mid-1980s Madonna.
“My father used to ask, ‘Why are you wearing those bracelets?’” he says. “I used to be a sailor, and each year my mother would give me a red bracelet for luck. Then, when I travelled, people would give them to me as presents, and I’ve never taken them off. I want to change the mood in classic men’s dressing.”
Wei Koh, editor of men’s magazine The Rake, says: “It helps if you’re Italian, like [Tod’s chief executive] Diego Della Valle. And they only work if they are worn unself-consciously. I think what’s nice about them is that they convey a personal connection.” Case in point: a custom-made Dodo bracelet from Italian jewellers Pomellato that Koh bought his friend James Massey last year.
“I haven’t taken it off since,” says Massey, who works in luxury PR and who has noticed an increasing number of smart London men wearing bracelets as part of their work outfit. “If you look around Mayfair, you see all these men in beautiful bespoke suits and Patek Philippe watches, and they’re wearing these bracelets to give them an air of nonchalance.”
According to Massey, these wristbands are a mark of the independence afforded to the hedge funder or the entrepreneur: “The ones that own their own company don’t care about traditional dressing,” he says.
Perhaps as a result, leather straps and bracelets for men have become an under-the-radar staple at luxury fashion houses. Tod’s, for example, sells two-tone plaited bracelets in a variety of shades for £95; Hermés has a metal link bracelet fastened by lengths of leather; and Bottega Veneta offers leather-weave styles with sterling silver fastenings for £620.
Those wishing to test the water could try wearing a bracelet between their watch and cuff (so it can be hidden by the sleeve if necessary).
Busson, however, has no such fear: his are worn above the watch, in proud view. “He always has them on show, whether he’s at the Serpentine summer party or in a dinner jacket,” says Massey. “If you have to cover them up, there’s no point in wearing them in the first place.”