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The Rules of Men's Jewelry

CHEST IN SHOW | Leave the overly slick open-shirt-and-gold-medallion look to 'Zorro,' portrayed in 1981 by George Hamilton. Everett Collection

Yes to tie clips. No to gold chains. With men and jewelry, there are so many ways to go wrong. Here's how to get it right

By Darrell Hartman - Wall Street Journal
IT HAS BEEN said a man needs no more ornaments than a watch and wedding ring. Perhaps that's because the idea of men wearing jewelry can evoke images of gold chains framed by a barely buttoned shirt. But there are many degrees of decoration between a strict limit of watch and wedding ring—with the occasional cuff links, of course—and the stuff of "Saturday Night Fever."
A few old-school accent pieces have started to make their way back into the gentleman's wardrobe—the signet ring, the tie clip and the lapel pin—thanks, in part, to the influence that the '50s have been wielding on menswear runways.
But how to wear all this hardware? "There are a million ways to get it wrong and only a few to get it right," said Tyler Thoreson, vice president of men's editorial and creative at Gilt Groupe. "That's part of the fun—it's a little tricky, and more rewarding to pull off in a sophisticated way."
As a general rule, it's wise to err on the side of understatement. Employing a tie clip? Skip the lapel pin. Considering multiple rings? Leave that look to the likes of Johnny Depp.

The Way to Wear It

Four pieces that won't make you look like Travolta circa 1977
The Tie Bar | Wear it between your shirt's third and fourth buttons, and choose a bar that's narrower than your tie. Bobby Pin Tie Bar, $75,; Jacket, $2,515, similar styles available at Louis Vuitton, 866-884-8866; Shirt, $245,; Tie, $85, F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Paula Knight, Model: Shane Duffy/Carmen Hand Model Management
The ID Bracelet | Nestle it next to your watch—never on the opposite wrist. Tiffany & Co. Sterling Silver Medium ID Bracelet, $650,; Polo Ralph Lauren Suit, $1,895, Shirt, $165, and Tie, $125, Ralph Lauren, 212-606-2100; Datejust II Watch, $7,150, Rolex, 800-367-6539 F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Paula Knight, Model: Shane Duffy/Carmen Hand Model Management
The Lapel Pin | An unexpected motif offers a bit of whimsy. New York Dream Brooch, set of 3 designs for $440, Louis Vuitton, 866-884-8866; Gant Rugger Blazer, $595,; Thompson Shirt, $45,; Cardigan, $325, A.P.C., 212-966-0049; Tie, $120, F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Paula Knight, Model: Shane Duffy/Carmen Hand Model Management
The Signet Ring | Unless you're royalty, don't wear it on your pinkie. Polo Ralph Lauren Signet Ring, $495, Ralph Lauren, 212-606-2100; Blazer, $895,; Shirt, $215, Brooklyn Tailors, 347-799-1646; Michael Bastian Trousers, $495, Bergdorf Goodman, 212-753-7300; Tiffany & Co. Band, $1,800, F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Paula Knight, Model: Shane Duffy/Carmen Hand Model Management
With bracelets, too, less can be more. Let the Zoolanders flaunt coils of rope and leather that creep up their forearms. For laymen, one does the trick. Robert Bryan, author of the book "American Fashion Menswear," is a proponent of the classic chain link ID bracelet. With men's jewelry, generally, "silver is the safer choice," said Mr. Bryan, who also advised caution when it comes to decorative stones. "They should be small and discreet, lest you be known as the Diamond Jim Brady of the office."
It also helps to wear pieces that have a significance beyond sheer aesthetics—jewelry that has a history or was received as a gift. "I think for men, the key is that it have meaning," said Lisa Salzer, who designs women's jewelry for her own label, Lulu Frost, and recently spun off a men's line called George Frost. Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president of menswear at Barneys New York, noted that bracelets are often bought as gifts since, unlike rings, they usually don't need to be sized.
Casual wrist-wear—beads and bracelets made of worn leather and nautical-style rope, like those popularized by American brand Miansai—suggests a life of adventure, imagined or not. However, more sophisticated pieces can carry a compelling back story, too. Jewelry designer Monique Péan, who recently launched a men's line, uses materials with notable past lives. Ms. Péan's tie clip is made of 18-karat recycled white gold, and ivory from a wooly mammoth sourced from the Arctic Circle, as well as onyx. "Men gravitate toward fossils," she noted.
Her distinctive clip brings a layer of intrigue to what can otherwise be a pragmatic accent. (The tie clip—also known as tie bar or tie clasp—does serve a function, unlike other pieces of jewelry: It keeps your tie straight, out of your face on a windy day and off of your plate.)
The clip should be narrower than the tie on which it's worn, said Mr. Thoreson. The correct placement is between the third and fourth shirt buttons. It should also be perfectly horizontal, though Mr. Bryan suggested that daring men might try the downward-tilted "rakish angle" that flourished in the 1930s.
Hogan Gidley, a Republican consultant based in Columbia, S.C., and Washington, D.C., wears a sterling-silver tie clip from Tiffany's that's engraved with his initials. "I might be an outlier in the party for wearing a tie clip, but I have seen more Republican pundits on TV starting to dabble in [them]," he said.
Known in political circles for being a dapper dresser, Mr. Gidley also sports a signet ring; it's engraved with a family crest that, he said, dates back hundreds of years. Signet rings are more prevalent in the South, he noted, and can also bear the crest or seal of the wearer's alma mater.
The signet ring is an age-old emblem of aristocratic belonging, yet designer brands are reworking the look, if not also the underlying message, into fashion accessories. See: Eddie Borgo (inlaid rubber), Bottega Veneta (a crosshatch motif that mimics the brand's signature woven leather) and Ms. Péan (fossilized walrus ivory). One savvy tactic is to wear the ring up against a wedding band, thereby confining digital decoration to a single finger.
Another badge that has become more of a style statement is the lapel pin. In the form of an American flag, it is de rigueur among politicians. But luxury labels have embraced pins as well. Several years ago, Italian brand Isaia created a mini-craze for the coral-shaped lapel pins that come with its jackets. And fashion houses that once tacked lapel pins onto suits as a bit of runway-only styling are now selling the accessories in stores. This spring, Louis Vuitton is offering pins shaped like pretzels and marijuana roach clips while Saint Laurent is selling one that looks like a surfer shooting the curl.
Lapel pins can add a hint of personality in more buttoned-up work environments. "A lot of guys in my line of work don't want to draw attention to themselves. They'd rather just wear the uniform," said Chris Schumacher, a 37-year-old Manhattan financier. He wasn't speaking for himself—he's partial to nautical rope bracelets, and wears an enamel fox-hunting pin on his overcoat. He added, "It's nice to see people getting away from just the watch and ring."
Disclosure: Randa Accessories is the world's largest men's accessories company. Note too that cuff links are conspicuously absent from this article, yet a major component of the men's jewelry marketplace and very appropriate in today's fashion space.  DJK

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