There was a stellar moment at the 2017 Oscars when the King of Style and the King of Cool joined forces and ran a sartorial match along the red carpet to light the media on fire that night.
Where the late Karl Lagerfeld showed up dressed as Karl Lagerfeld dresses, one of his favourite muses – Pharrell Williams, no less – joined him in a similar ensemble, accessorised in near spitting image style of King Karl himself. Why the screeches and following fashion furore? Pharrell had paired his dapper suit with a bow tie, a diamond brooch, and layers of necklaces – and he looked incredible. We went wild.
[Hero image credit: Tateossian]
It’s not that men’s jewellery for formal wear is an entirely new phenomenon. The British Victorians wore brooches, the Indian Maharajas were decked in gemstones, and to this day married men often wear wedding bands. Swanky finance guys let a colourful beaded bracelet peek out from under their shirt sleeves in memory of a weekend trip to Bali, and on occasion you could even spot the odd earring in a boardroom meeting. It’s not that men aren’t wearing jewellery, but they’re certainly not flaunting it either.
However – with Pharrell (always) as our sartorial saviour – a brilliant change could be on the cards. Gucci sent necklaces on men down the runway last year, and everyone from Cartier and Boucheron to Bally is bringing more suit jewellery into their repertoire. Unquestionably, the ideal pairing for a good suit is a dress watch and a good pair of leather shoes, but more intriguingly, cufflinks, tie pins, and brooches are cropping up more – and in very creative waves, too.
A subtle excuse to bring a touch of personality to your look, or simply give your everyday suit a certain extra je ne sais quois, here are the four major suit jewellery style staples you need to know and wear about.
Let’s start off slow and sophisticated: cufflinks. The little button covers that quietly sit in the corner of a classic dress shirt have long been known as what separates the men from the boys. Bringing a suit from casual rental to grand gala dinner, cufflinks are normally reserved for the most formal of occasions, and are what truly brings your black tie look to James Bond levels.
Regardless, cufflinks can still be worn everyday, and from bullets to studs, there are several styles to choose from. It comes highly recommended to always keep it casual when choosing cufflinks, as they’re merely designed to complement a shirt or an overall look. You’ll never go wrong with a pair from Tiffany & Co. or Bottega Veneta for a sleek and smart everyday vibe, or Tom Ford and Paul Smith (the serious unsung hero of fun cufflinks) for special occasions. The key thing when it comes to cufflinks: don’t over do it. Be chill. Let them act as an eye-catcher followed by a nod from an admirer as you reach over for your dry martini. Smooth.
Whilst ties are arguably slowly dying as ‘smart casual’ slowly becomes more of a norm, tie bars were beginning to look irrelevant. Yet we’ve strayed far from a simple bar across the tie in recent years, and tie bars have grown to encompass a whole new playing field. Tie clips, tie chains, tie pins, and even tie tacks are all really a thing, and as it turns out, ties may be dying, but they’re leaving with a seriously fashionable bang.
After all, we have much reason to celebrate them. They’re probably the most practical piece of jewellery to tie with a suit, as they ensure your cravat doesn’t fling all over the place. This makes them ideal for those with an active lifestyle (or just a business lunch in a windy location), and they add a little bit of personality to an plain tie. Always clip it from right to left to hold both tie and shirt together, and always pair a thin tie clip with a skinny tie, and a large tie clip with a wide tie. Who knows, ties may soon be making a comeback – and if not, at least you’ll know how to style them when they come back around as ‘vintage’.
A lapel pin comes close to a pocket square, but exudes so many more cool points. After all, not many even think about taking the little hole on the front side of a suit jacket to the next level with some accessories. It’s a little unexpected, and it’s a very sleek look when done right. They’re similar to brooches in that they are pins that sit on the suit, but unlike brooches they are pricked through the lapel buttonhole. They have a bit of an old-world charm, and like tie bars, come in many different varieties, from the bold boutonniere to thin long-stem pins and badges.
Yet where tie bars and cufflinks are the more serious accessories, lapel pins boast a bit of a larger spectrum for experimentation. Dare to be bold and stack a couple together for a more dramatic look, and be sure to always position them on the left lapel (and well aligned with it), above the pocket square.
When pairing jewellery with a suit, brooches is where you can truly let loose. Sitting proud and pompous on a suit jacket, pinned through the lapel or the tie, brooches are the ultimate way to convey a sense of personality before you even speak your first Hello. All major fashion and jewellery houses have a host of brooches to choose from, and they’re becoming more en vogue than ever. Decorative and dynamic, this is where you don’t hold back, and truly make a (men’s jewellery) statement.
Also, Karl Lagerfeld wore a brooch on his tie for years and it was one of his most signature looks. Enough said.
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Bangkok on 23 January 2019.