When you think of someone decked out to the nines in fancy jewels, glittering diamonds and eye-catching gemstones, do you picture a woman?
Truth be told, only a few centuries ago, that would have been a man.
When you explore the past, you’ll find plenty of men wearing jewelry in unexpected and untraditional ways. In fact, it was there desire for the dazzling that paved the way for everyone to enjoy their beloved bling. Join us today as we explore this rich, fascinating and utterly fabulous history.
The Earliest, Flashiest…Neanderthals?
Historians believe that some of the very first accessories originated with the Neanderthals around 130,000 years ago!
Back then, they didn’t have jewelry stores on the corner. Instead, they fashioned their ornaments by stringing together shells and animal teeth. That shark’s tooth necklace your man wears on a daily basis? The best trends always come back around.
Recently, archeologists discovered a set of eagle talons from this era, buried in Croatia. More than a mere fossil, these appeared to be used as part of a bracelet or necklace, which they explain would have most likely adorned a man’s wrist or neck.
Egyptian Males Plea to the Gods
In Ancient Egypt, it was believed that the glimmer of gold and silver was beautiful enough to attract the attention of the gods.
Thus, both men and women alike would pile on the precious metals to catch the eye of those deities they thought could bring them riches, good karma, and a prosperous afterlife. Never ones for subtlety, they’d stack their accessories on as high as possible!
Many men would also wear small, ornamental pieces of jewelry known as amulets adorned with special symbols, such as the Eye of Horus. They believed that keeping these on their bodies at all times would help ward away evil and protect their families.
British Royals With Golden Collars
Does the man in your life love his gold chain necklace?
If so, he has British royalty to thank for making this trend such a popular one. Starting around the mid-15th century, royals began distributing and donning accessories known as livery collars to mark their specific associations. These were heavy, ornate chains normally made of gold.
Chances are, you’ve seen the Collar of Esses in portraits of that time period. Popularized by Sir Thomas More in the 1500s, this collar featured a stunning row of links engraved with “SS”. To show his favor to certain comrades, Henry VIII would hand out these collars, whose engravings paid homage to the Latin creed “Spiritus Sanctus”, or Holy Spirit.
Though historians say he handed out around 20 of these collars, they believed that none currently existed in their entirety. However, an intact one was recently discovered at the family home of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, fetching more than £300,000 at a 2008 auction.
The Gemstones and the Glory
Speaking of Henry VIII, the infamous king was also well-known for his love of glorious gemstones. Considered to be a status symbol, gemstones were reserved at that time for only the highest-ranking church officials, as well as anyone else rich enough to get their hands on one.
Henry VIII owned an impressive collection of more than 230 gemstone-encrusted rings, as well as more than 320 brooches, along with multiple diamond-encrusted necklaces. Was he that generation’s Flavor Flav?
Greek Soldiers and Blinged-Out Battles
Illustrated images of the wars fought in ancient Greece might have left out one important detail.
Greek soldiers would often embellish their uniforms with leather accessories and metal cuffs to garner as much spiritual protection as possible. Later, Roman troops would adopt the practice and add a more colorful spin, as evidenced by the glamorous, multi-colored gemstones and glass accents that define ancient Roman jewelry.
Single Earrings in the 16th Century
Now, it’s commonplace to see men wearing earrings. Yet, this style wasn’t popular until the 16th century, when European men started rocking the look. At that time, they chose to decorate just one of their ears, normally opting for a drop-style piece rather than the studs that are customary today.
Searching for an example? Take a look at this portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh. That pearl dazzler was impressive then, and as Harry Styles demonstrates in the article, it’s just as on-trend today.
20th Century Wartime Inspiration
In more modern news, one of the most important trends that has shaped the direction of men’s jewelry over the last few decades was inspired by times of war.
Designed to show support and camaraderie for the men and women fighting in the military, dog tags are arguably one of the most prominent pieces in the market today. Now, it’s not uncommon for men to add a dog tag to their everyday chains, along with charms and pendants representing symbols that are important to them.
In a similar vein, it’s also easy to spot men wearing identification bracelets. This is also a nod to dog tags, as World War II Americans soldiers relied on such tags to identify themselves on the battlefield.
Men Wearing Jewelry and Making a Statement
Since the very earliest cavemen, the male population has been inherently interested in baubles that sparkle and shine.
While men wearing jewelry might be a mainstream look today, it was once mostly reserved for the rich and powerful, or those heading into major battles.
Looking for more interesting insight on life, work, and play? Keep reading our blog! We’ve got all the tips and tricks you need to look and feel your best.
With your man all decked out in his accessories, are you ready to change up your look with a fun new hairstyle? If so, check out our guide to gorgeous, low-maintenance hairstyles that anyone can rock with confidence!