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Key Chains: Functional Toys for Grown-Up Boys

SOME GUYS never get over their first rabbit's foot key chain. And who can blame them for holding the boyish trinkets dear to their hearts.

Key chains are one of the few character-exhibiting accents men can wield on a daily basis. Though the talismans are often tucked away in a pocket, when pulled out and tossed onto a bar, they can make for some revealing conversation pieces. The longer they chink-a-chink around, the more sentimental value they acquire. Oh, and they're just plain fun.

Clockwise from top left: Burger Needlepoint Key Fob, $38,; Sports Car Key Ring, $68,; Double Golf Club Key Ring, $300, Asprey, 212-688-1811; Bulldog Steel Key Fob, $360,; Arrowhead Brass Key Chain, $75,

Douglas Hand, a New York lawyer, carries around a "zombielike" silver hand, which he feels gives his look a note of "pleasant incongruity"—and is a winky reference to his last name. "My appearance doesn't exactly scream 'death metal,' " said Mr. Hand. The accessory is also functional: The fingers catch the brim of his pocket. "It keeps my keys from bunching at the bottom," he said.

The key chain can also serve the same function as a charm on a woman's bracelet—to evoke a memory. Restaurateur Sean Meenan (Cafe Habana in New York, Malibu and Dubai) carries a gold boxing glove to conjure his days as a light heavyweight. Riad Nasr, a founding chef of Manhattan bistros Balthazar and Pastis, uses a horsetail switch key chain bought at a Utah dude ranch while on a riding trip with his wife.

Of the many varieties available, room-key fobs from fabled inns are among the most popular, sought for their nostalgia factor (few are made anymore), insider status and efficiently flat shapes. John Huba, a New York-based photographer, has one he bought from the Hotel Paisano in Marfa, Texas. "I was going to steal it but then discovered guests pilfered them so often they started selling them in their gift shop," said Mr. Huba.

Harking back to those rabbit's feet, designer-retailer Steven Alan considers the Star of David amulet on his key ring a lucky charm. It was a gift from his superstitious mother who purchased it for him eight years ago near Jerusalem's Western Wall. Said Mr. Alan, "When I'm behind the wheel of a car, I remember my mother's words when she gave it to me: 'Always drive with it.' "

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