Bringing Back Men's Accessories


   Cast your mind back, as I will often ask you to do, to the Golden Age of Hollywood. A period where men were men but were certainly not afraid to accessorise. Hats (outdoors only for true gentlemen) were used to top off sartorial compositions, and leading stars such as Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart didn’t shy away from pocket squares or even subtle jewellery.

   Whereas nowadays, adornments to one’s outfit may be frowned upon in some circles, it is a weird coincidence that the period which saw males at the height of their fashion powers was also a time in which accessories were strongly encouraged and appropriated by men. If these facts are indeed true, which, like everything else you read on my blog, they are, then what went wrong? What encouraged men to abandon these flourishes which could truly make their outfits great?

    The answer, sadly, is this – the 1980s happened. As much as I like to blame the majority of style mishaps that mankind has suffered on the weirdly cartoonish 90s and as much as I would like to defend the 1980s, an unfairly maligned decade, as a misunderstood period of time, it is true that this age of excess was what inflicted an almost fatal blow to men’s accessories in the fashion stakes.

   Nothing, as we know, was subtle in the 1980s: mobile phones, the ultimate sign of yuppiedom, were bigger than slabs of ham, men’s haircut larger still and the colours – oh the colours! Why wear black trousers when powdered turquoise was available? Contemporary men, with benefit of hindsight, will often laugh at images of actors playing police detectives with shirts unbuttoned to the naval (a look replicated in recent years only by dark pop overlord Simon Cowell) with large gold necklaces balanced perfectly between two hairy pectorals in what was then considered the height of masculinity. Yet at the time this overly assertive form of manliness was cool and any vulgar displays of wealth, such as the brazen display of large gold jewellery, was considered not just acceptable but downright appealing.

   This leads, ultimately, to the man who took things too far and singularly killed male accessorising. It breaks my heart to point an accusatory finger to one of my childhood heroes (along with Hulk Hogan and feminist writer Naomi Wolf) but the lone figure who sent men’s fashion into a downward spiral, from which it took over two decades to recover from and only now are the green shoots of recovery being seen on the high street, is Mr T. In the aforementioned Golden Age of Hollywood, it would not be remiss for Humphrey Bogart to wear a subtle ring, or other flashes of sophistication which was considered the height of cool. Mr. T, and his A-Team alter ego B.A. Barraccas, was obviously of the school of thought: “What’s better than one piece of jewellery on display? How about one thousand!” (The only instance of success for this multiplying things to large degrees when it is seemingly not needed is in the case of Korean girl group Girl’s Generation. What’s better than four stunning women shimmying in perfect synch and harmony? Answer: Nine of them!)

   Sadly, in reaction to T’s braggadocios approach to style a quarter of a century backlash occurred in which men felt uncomfortable accessing in case they too were pilloried as no plane-riding, milk loving, vulgar wealth displaying “Foos”. This, my friends, is rather sad and I propose a backlash against this backlash begins now. I’m not saying we should walk around shirtless covered in thousands of pounds worth of jewellery all the time but there’s obvious benefits for dressing with a hint of restraint. If you fancy wearing a signet ring with your family’s coat of arms on it then you should – don’t fear the “T bashers”, treat yourself to one of the Engraved Mens signet Rings at Rebus. Similarly, you fancy bringing pocket squares back in style? Go for it I say! The 80s are over and we should learn the lessons good and bad from this period of time!  

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