‘Strand’-ed: The latest must-have accessory for men is … a pearl necklace

March 16, 2020

Harry Styles—the British vocalist, former One Direction member, part-time actor, and occasional escort of Kendall Jenner—has added a new unofficial gig to his résumé, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The fashion-forward Styles now is styling himself in a piece of jewelry heretofore only coveted by ladies who lunch. In recent months, he’s rarely been seen in public without a single strand of delicate white pearls dangling from his neck.

Indeed, the Journal chronicles, he has worn them on “The Graham Norton Show,” “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “BBC Radio 1” and at the Brit Awards, among other outlets.

And the shaggy-haired star is not the only notable who appears to have raided Nana’s jewelry box. Milky pearl necklaces have swayed around the necks of rapper A$AP Rocky, designer-cum-Instagram-influencer Marc Jacobs, pop star Shawn Mendes, and songster  Pharrell Williams.

For attention-seeking men, explained Mark-Evan Blackman, assistant professor of Fashion Design-Menswear specialist at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, pearls serve as a strategic substitute for the now-ubiquitous gold chain: “If you were to put a gold chain around your neck, no one would be talking about you, because it’s been done a thousand times,” Blackman told the Journal, adding, “A gold chain says ‘mundane,’ but a rope of prim pearls on a man? That’s beguiling.”

As phenomena go, the masc-pearl mystique is relatively new. While the coveted orbs have signified wealth and taste on women for centuries, they’ve only rarely distinguished men—mostly Asian or European royals with particularly glittery tastes, the news outlet notes.

ghteenth-century Indian Maharajas draped themselves in mounds of frosty pearls, and that tradition has trickled down: When Blackman attended a wedding in India around 15 years ago, men in the bridal party were drenched in multiple strands.

Meanwhile, in the West, the “man-pearl” has appeared only infrequently—and very discreetly—in the past few decades. On a 2005 cover of Italian Vanity Fair, Pierce Brosnan smoldered with a solitary brownish pearl slung on a cord around his neck.

As for the men’s white pearl necklace, Williams was an early adopter, arriving so adorned at the Time 100 Gala in 2014. This past year the look popped: Male models on runways for brands like Ryan Roche and Palomo Spain donned strands, while an ad for a current collaboration between Comme des Garçons and Japanese pearl specialists Mikimoto shows a man in a traditional suit with a string of delicate pearls perched on his tie. In the March issue of WSJ. Magazine, A$AP Rocky posed with a rope of pearls from that collaboration atop a white T-shirt.

Pearls for men are part of a larger trend, catalyzed by fashion labels like Gucci and Givenchy, that injects classically feminine ideas into the male wardrobe. “The pearl is the quintessential feminine accessory,” said Chris Green, the general merchandise manager at retailers Totokaelo and Need Supply Co. in New York City, who, the Journal says, has worn pearls for several years now. When used to accessorize a modest, masculine outfit—say, the T-shirt and plaid coat that Harry Styles sported in London in December—pearls add a potent, even disorienting, daintiness that’s macho in its audaciousness.

The relative affordability of pearls bolsters their relative popularity.  Etsy, the online marketplace, lists over 61,000 results for “vintage pearl necklace” with some selling for under $100, and costume pieces going for even less. But, if that still seems too steep for a risky trend, you can always borrow a set from grandma.

Research contact: @WSJ

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