From Oscars to hip-hop: Men love bold bling on the red carpet

By | February 25, 2019

This awards season, male stars have discovered a dazzling new way to stand out on the red carpet.

Buzzy male celebs such as Chadwick Boseman, Timothée Chalamet, Sam Rockwell and Luke Kirby are stealing the spotlight from the ladies with their eye-catching awards-show bling. They’re rocking unexpected pieces from the most coveted jewelers — including Tiffany & Co. and Cartier — and inspiring regular guys to rethink the way they accessorize.

And it’s not just actors who are bringing a fresh perspective to the long-stalled conversation around men’s jewelry. Adam Lambert rocked some serious sparkle on Sunday’s Oscars 2019 red carpet — and A$ AP Rocky and Offset, both from the diamond-studded world of hip-hop, are experimenting with traditionally feminine baubles, including smooth pearls and layered single-strand sparkling necklaces.

Adam Lambert ear jewels
Adam Lambert on the 91st annual Academy Awards red carpet.AFP/Getty Images

The conversation around men’s jewelry is changing, both for celebs and average joes, says Benjamin G. Guttery, a gemologist and jewelry brand consultant who runs a blog called Third Coast Gems. “Men are starting to feel like they can be themselves and wear something that represents them,” he says, “without being looked at like they’re Liberace.”

Guttery says this means that guys are branching out beyond the traditional wedding bands and cufflinks to test out more adventurous styles, such as stacked bracelets, pendant necklaces and lapel pins. Pins, he says, are totally on-trend, which is why they’re rapidly becoming a red-carpet staple: “You can wear one with a blazer and jeans or you can wear it with a three-piece suit,” he says.

This moment — in which dapper dudes are finally breaking barriers when it comes to precious jewels — is thanks to men’s fashion becoming more “theatrical” in general, says Nick Verreos, a department co-chair at LA’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and red-carpet commentator.

A$ AP Rocky in several pearl pieces
A$ AP Rocky in several pearl piecesGetty Images

“I think it’s been spurred by Virgil Abloh, creative director of Louis Vuitton, who has really inspired men to take risks with their style,” he says. “Fashion is no longer considered something that’s just for gay men, to put it bluntly.”

Verreos says that these days, entertainers and their ilk are starting to realize that sporting a well-placed brooch or a gleaming lapel pin is “a great statement…[it shows] that a guy is comfortable in his skin.” Adds veteran celebrity jewelry designer Neil Lane, the author of the new book “Style Your Wedding with Neil Lane,” “It’s refreshing to see guys add a little something to their looks—it shows sophistication and a distinct sense of style.”

And this shift is a long time coming, says bling branding expert Elizabeth Anne Bonanno, who reps high-end brands such as Victor Velyan and Buddha Mama (which both Madonna and Katy Perry wore to last year’s Met Gala).

“If you go way, way back to ancient Indian jewelry, most of that was for men. It was very much the idea of the peacock,” she says, with the world’s most illustrious men competing to flaunt the rarest, most coveted jewels.

Luke Kirby in a Fred Leighton onyx and diamond pansy brooch at the Emmys
Luke Kirby in a Fred Leighton onyx and diamond pansy brooch at the EmmysFilmMagic

But in the 20th century, something shifted and wearing jewelry got coded as “fussy,” she explains. Now, “we all know men who feel like wearing jewelry is feminine.” In the 1980s, diamond mining giant De Beers actually tried to fight this stereotype with a series of print ads featuring male sports stars who described wearing the bright-white gemstones as “extremely masculine.” However, the campaign was a flop.

In the 1990s, male rappers piled on diamonds, in the form of sparkling earrings, rings and costume-like pendant necklaces. But those looks, while stunning, didn’t necessarily convince non-famous guys to start buying up their own collections.

“Their jewelry was so far-out, so wild, that most men wouldn’t wear it,” says Soraya Cayen, whose luxury boutique, Cayen Collection in Carmel, Calif., has loaned out vintage baubles for the Oscars and the Emmys. “But what we’re seeing now is more toned-down, something that is fitting to a person who’s not just putting on a show.”

She believes that this isn’t just a passing trend, but the dawn of a “cultural shift,” in which men are finally feeling free to sport beautiful adornments once again.

For Verreos, who has done awards show commentary for ABC and E!, it’s the start of something absolutely scintillating.

“A [man’s] lapel is like the perfect blank canvas that can show off a gorgeous piece of jewelry, whether it’s diamonds, pearls or sterling silver,” he says. “It’s so much better than lifting up a sleeve cuff to show off a watch.”

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