Separate the men from the boys
What can jewellery designers do to encourage their male clients to purchase and wear more jewellery? In the first place, male designers could start by designing pieces for themselves and actually wearing them! I look back to my first American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) Spectrum Awards banquet some 20 years ago. Thrilled to be part of the designers being honoured for creative jewellery design, I naively assumed I would see my male colleagues attending this black tie function wearing interesting designer jewellery. I made myself a lapel pin and a new pair of cufflinks to wear. I was rather disappointed to see none of the other designers wore more than their wedding rings. Their spouse or partner might be wearing beautiful jewellery, but it was mostly a case of the ‘shoemaker’s children go barefoot.’
I take it as a positive sign that in more recent awards events, these same designers are now wearing pieces of their own making or purchased from others. Lapel pins, coloured gem or diamond rings, and bracelets and cufflinks are all on display.
The Spectrum competition has had a ‘Men’s Wear’ category for many years. A review of the entries and the winning pieces shows both conservative and innovative designs. However, this category still garners the fewest entries of them all, accounting for only eight to 10 per cent of the submissions made overall. Last year, there were only 24 in ‘Men’s Wear,’ with twice as many in each of the ‘Classical’ and ‘Bridal’ categories, more than four times as many in ‘Business/Day Wear,’ and over six times as many in ‘Evening Wear.’ Is this a reflection of the industry’s interest in creating exciting jewellery for the male of the species? Incidentally, if you are a designer interested in entering the Spectrum Awards, ‘Men’s Wear’ is the best category in which to do so—you won’t have much competition!
Another overlooked market for men’s adornment is wedding rings and other jewellery for same-sex couples. Many male couples enjoy jewellery and are generally open to rings that stretch beyond the plain gold band their fathers and grandfather’s favoured and there is double the opportunity for men’s designs. Pieces in alternative materials and incorporating coloured gemstones in addition to or instead of diamonds are great options and offer a chance to push the creative envelope.
It is up to us as jewellery designers and jewellery store owners to step forward and both encourage and support the cause of fine jewellery for men.
Cufflinks are one of the most likely categories of men’s jewellery to offer market growth potential. Aside from the established tradition of wearing links, there is a growing trend for men in the business world to sport them. Even though the office dress code has relaxed somewhat from the days of three-piece suits, the fashion-savvy working man can build up a wardrobe.