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Perhaps it started with the Nike FuelBand and other fitness accessories of that type – wearable workout technology posing as jewellery. Suddenly, men everywhere were sporting black rubber bracelets under the guise of being health-conscious; even men who previously considered anything beyond a watch and cufflinks as a style statement too far. And once that barrier was broken, well, après ça, le déluge.
Damien Paul, menswear buying manager at matchesfashion.com, says: “We’ve seen a real surge of interest in men’s jewellery and our customers are increasingly investing in bracelets to wear casually and at work. It’s a great way to break up the formality of a suit while still looking appropriate, and a small piece of jewellery feels far more contemporary than a flashy timepiece.”
Eric Jennings, Saks Fifth Avenue’s men’s fashion director, says: “Anyone can wear a leather bracelet, so it’s absolutely safe to give it as a gift. Guys can even wear one with a suit when it is worn on the same wrist as the watch.”
Among the popular brands, he cites John Hardy, M Cohen and Tateossian, along with Miansai, a Miami-based bracelet brand founded in 2008 by Michael Saiger that combines leather with silver ($150), 14-carat gold ($265) and 18-carat gold ($13,995).
“It is perfectly acceptable in the entertainment industry for a man – even one attempting to project relative sobriety on the business side – to wear a bracelet,” says Dej Mahoney, an entertainment lawyer and producer, who has worn a silver bracelet since his late teens. “However, I find that the silver version works rather better with a suit than sporting a jumble of multicoloured, plastic or fabric bracelets.”
Damien Paul agrees. “When shopping for men’s jewellery, I would advise restraint – avoid anything too ostentatious or festival-ready, and choose simple pieces with a subtler impact,” he says. “We introduced the Miami-based jewellery designer Luis Morais this season, and his glass bead bracelets have proved highly popular, either worn individually or with several piled up.”
Ann Dexter-Jones, who works out of New York, began making her silver ID bracelets in 2009. The collection has grown from four designs to more than 100 combinations using turquoise, lapis and onyx in white, red or black. The bracelets, often finished with diamond and sapphire bezels and priced from £2,300 to £8,000, sell through 11 stores internationally. Dexter-Jones is the former wife of Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones and the mother of DJ Mark Ronson, so it’s no surprise that her friend Mick Jagger and his son Jimmy wear her bracelets.
However, she also reports that her pieces are popular with men on Wall Street. Sean Parker, the tech entrepreneur who co-founded the Napster music site, also owns a bracelet. She recalls one customer, a New York emergency room doctor, who was given a lapis bracelet by a friend and subsequently tracked her down and bought another one in a different material.
“I first spotted ID bracelets in flea markets and discovered romantic stories from American men about how they had been originally given to them as coming-of-age presents, which inspired me to make them as rock ’n’ roll chic jewels,” says Dexter-Jones.
“A lot of the bracelets I wear are from the different places I’ve traveled to around the world,” says Toms shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie. “I have a story for each one.”
Designer Theo Williams, who has pinned his hopes on receiving Martin Margiela’s stainless steel watch strap bracelet this Christmas, believes that attitudes towards men’s bracelets shift according to the milieu. If a man works in a creative field, he says, then the materials featured or the design of the bracelet might provide a talking point. “But if a man works in business or finance and is wearing a bracelet, then he would probably say, ‘Oh, it’s a gift,’” he adds.
Put another way: making a gift of a bracelet to a man might mean giving him an excuse to wear it too.