Get It Right: How to Wear Men’s Jewelry

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Jewelry, and other articles we put on our body, for that matter, symbolizes who we are and what we stand for. A band on your ring finger signifies you’re married. A local bracelet points to your roots. A dog tag around your neck may mean you’re in the military (or like military style).

It also sends certain social cues, as seen in the quality of your wristwatch or the length of that gold chain swinging from your neck. As such, it’s important to get things right in order to send the right message. A studded earlobe may hold swagger for a musician, but not so much for the nine-to-five fellow.

At Esquire, we’re generally in favor of keeping things modest and tasteful. Master the basics first before bending the rules. If your knowledge about bling is shaky (first tip: don’t call it bling), here’s a helpful guide for accessorizing with jewelry.

1| Match the metal to your skin tone.

Before deciding to wear any metal jewelry, whether it’s a ring, an earring, or a necklace, make sure that it matches your skin tone. Jewelry commonly comes in either gold or silver colors. The rule of thumb is that gold metals go with warm undertones, while silver metals pair with cool undertones.

To know whether your skin has a warm or cool undertone, check the veins that appear on the inside of your wrist. If your veins are greenish, that means you have a warm undertone. If they look bluish, you’re cool-toned. If it's hard to tell—meaning they look both blue and green—then you’ve got a neutral undertone; you can pull off either gold or silver.


2| Match the metals you’re sporting.

That said, even if you find yourself on the neutral spectrum, stick to one shade. Your accessories shouldn’t feature more than one metal tone, as different hues will clash and distract from your outfit. If your watch features silvery features, keep the rest of your metal accessories in the same tone. An exception to the rule is your wedding band—but otherwise, keep everything similar.

3| Invest in classic timepieces.

Even with the many kinds of smartwatches and other trendy watches in the market today, choosing a few, classic timepieces is still the smartest move. Maintain at least two or three really good watches: one for daily use, a dress watch for formal events, and for athletic types, a sports watch that suits your favorite physical activity, like a running watch for runners or a water-resistant watch for swimmers.

A metal dial and a leather band is always a good choice for your everyday beater. Make sure that the dial is proportional to your wrist and the leather matches the rest of the leathers in your outfit such as your belt. A classic dive watch also makes for a great daily timepiece and can go with casual or work outfits, but maybe not with black-tie ensembles.

Remember: The more understated the design, the more formal it is. Keep gems to a minimum or avoid them completely.

4| Mind the number.

When it comes to men’s jewelry, there’s a fine line between looking classic and sophisticated versus, well, tacky. Wearing more than one or two rings on your fingers can look unbalanced and overdone—the exception is if they’re meaningful pieces of jewelry like a wedding band, a family heirloom, or a class or fraternity ring. (But don’t wear them all at the same time.)

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As for necklaces, wear just one. Stacking necklaces draws too much attention. Multiple necklaces also look bulky and can cut the length of your neck.

4| Mind the size.

Wearing jewelry is all about balance. We’re not just referring to the amount of jewelry, but also its size. If you have one statement piece, such as a hefty insignia ring on your finger, then keep everything else understated. Sporting a loud belt buckle, a large pendant, and an oversized ring may not be the best idea.

5| Necklaces shouldn’t be overlong.

The length of your necklace is what differentiates you from a noughties hip-hop star who wears baggy pants that graze the floor. Keep the distance between the end of your necklace and your navel at around six to eight inches—that’s just enough for a pendant (like a dog tag) to tastefully dangle from the chain. You should also be able to hide the necklace inside your shirt when the situation calls for it.

6| Take extra care when it comes to earrings.

Though earrings on men are acceptable, there is still some contention about piercings. Consider your lifestyle and environment before getting one. If your line of work has a strict dress code and allows only modest jewelry, then you may have to rethink that piercing appointment.

Earlobes are the most common placement for piercings and draw the least attention. Plain, metallic studs are the most tasteful option for earrings. Beware of dangling earrings, whether worn on one ear or both; Unless you are a trendy pop star, these are very hard to pull off.

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Sam Beltran
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