I have always found it interesting that many jewelry makers find it difficult to design for men. I remember making a necklace and beaded hatband for my little brother’s dress-up cowboy hat when we were kids, and made bracelets and rings for my dad, grandpa, and uncles. Maybe making jewelry for males at such an early age allowed me to not get sucked into the cultural and gender expectations of man-cessories. I don’t really know!
Designing for men doesn’t have to be intimidating, so today I’m going to share a few things that you’ll want to think about, should you decide to experiment with creating jewelry for men. It’s important to keep in mind that these are just guidelines – there are always going to be people that have different tastes or a specific request. However, I’ve found that if you keep these guidelines in mind while creating for men, you will have success more often than not.
It’s just a fact of nature that men are larger, more heavily boned and muscled, than most women. Therefore it follows that you will need to design with larger beads and components, than if you were going to market the end result to a woman. Another thing I’ve discovered, is that many men who wear jewelry are not afraid to make a larger statement with their adornment. There is an inherent delicacy to smaller scale jewelry, and that is not something that most men want to be perceived as.
Don’t forget to apply this larger scale to the findings that you use, partially to keep them in scale with the rest of the piece, and also because most men have large hands and fingers and will get very frustrated trying to fasten smaller clasps. I usually use a large toggle with nice bumps on the ends of the bar, or an S-hook style clasp. I try to avoid lobster claw styles in particular, because men usually keep their nails short and lobsters are definitely harder to operate with short nails and big fingers.
Because of cultural labels that have been attached to certain colors, most men will be more comfortable wearing darker colors. Earth-tones are a good choice, but any subdued colors will usually be met with approval. When inserting a saturated, or lighter, color, it helps if it is just used as an accent to the main color palette. This is especially helpful when you are making something for a man that has a specific favorite color. Consider pairing that color with black or dark brown, so the finished piece is not quite so bold with its color statement.
Unless you are designing for a very effeminate or flamboyant man, you probably want to avoid any beads that are shiny or sparkly – matte or comparatively dull finishes are more widely accepted. Metal and metallic beads are an exception, though copper, brass, and gunmetal are usually preferred over shiny bright gold and silver. When it comes to seed beadwork especially, texture and shape are huge factors. Its very easy for beadwork to become too fussy, frilly, or “wiggly” for a man to feel comfortable wearing. I usually stick to stiffer, more architectural beaded elements, skip the fringe, and keep the dangling parts that will exhibit motion to a minimum.
In my opinion, the most important thing to consider when you’re designing jewelry for a man is his own personal taste. Men vary as widely in their tastes as any other demographic. There’s the polished dandy, like news anchor Brian Williams – he wears simple knotted leather bracelets. There’s the flamboyant family man, like Johnny Depp – he can often be seen sporting prayer beads mixed with bracelets that his daughter made. Pharrell Williams is all over pop culture right now, and as questionable as his fashion choices might seem to some people, what I appreciate is that he has eschewed the typical music industry hip hop trend for over-sized bling. He wears jewelry that has spiritual or metaphysical meanings for him, and he’s not afraid to pile it on.
I’ve made jewelry for lots of different men over the years. Most of the jewelry pictured here, I made for my significant other, Keven. We picked a few of his favorite pieces to share with you, and it also gave me a chance to ask him what he liked in particular about them. Keven prefers natural tones and textures, as evidenced by all of the stone, bone, and wood beads I’ve used in his necklaces. You can probably also tell that he likes mossy greens…serpentine, moss agate, and various jaspers are usually what I reach for. He likes focal components that are abstract or simple, with the exception being an affinity for turtles – one of his totem animals.
My friend Steve is an amazing ceramic artist and carver, and he occasionally branches out into making pendants and jewelry components. He is both a biker and very new-age spiritual, so the jewelry I’ve made for him runs the gamut from very organic to imposing and spiky, and above all his accessories must resonate with him on the spiritual level. He is also never without wide alligator leather cuffs, so I try to work in a larger scale than normal when making a piece for Steve. In the picture above, Steve made the crystal and driftwood focal in the necklace on the left, and the petrified wood disk focal in the necklace on the right.
My friend Bob is a New Mexico desert rat – not afraid to wear flamboyant western shirts, so I knew he would appreciate a bold necklace. I wanted this piece to reflect the desert, and also be a nod to the Native American jewelry artisans.
Don’t feel like you’re limited to necklaces and bracelets when designing for men. Lapel pins, cuff links, tie tacks, belt buckles, and hatbands are also good options. Do consider non traditional components, like bike chains, nuts, bolts, and washers. I am waiting for a piece of chainsaw chain from Keven’s dad. That could definitely make for an interesting piece, don’t you think? Above all, think outside your normal creative box – how can you work your style into a piece for a man? Is there already a man in your life that could be wearing your jewelry…but isn’t because you haven’t made any for him yet? I would love to see what you’ve made for men – do you feel it was successful, or are there more things you can work on? Please let me know in the comments if you would like to read more on this subject! I hope this post helps you in your creative endeavors.