A Man Is His Castle: Jewelry For Every Knight

By DuncanRhys C. Liancourt

“Fashion is architecture. It is a matter of proportions.” 
Coco Chanel


No building is complete simply because the stone, metal, or wood clothing that hides its private parts––its structure, supports, plumbing, and wiring––has been stuck on. It needs details, functional and ornamental: cornices, a tile border to demarcate floors, the perfect configuration of railings to keep you from falling and to articulate proportions. Even the most minimalist of structures demands decisions about exterior lighting, door and window trim, and hardware. Whether a no-frills chrome lever, or an elaborate brass lion’s head knob, both door openers will be chosen with care to telegraph the style of the building, reiterate its message, influence those who see it to make them feel and respond in the desired way. The building wants to be its best self––respected, admired, and remembered.

Without its trim and details––or equally tragically––with the wrong ones, that, tall, strong-looking structure by the hottest architect, covered in the rarest, most costly imported marble, or sheathed in glimmering aluminum, remains unfinished. Clothes, said Mark Twain, make the man, yet he knew that in just clothes––tie flapping in the wind for want of a tie pin, cufflink-less cuffs spilling the tea, and pocket watch dropping into the soup instead of being saved by its fob––a man remains unfinished, naked-seeming even if unlikely to be arrested, out of proportion and not conveying the message he intends.

A man’s trim and hardware––your jewelry––should complete your proportions and make you feel more yourself. This is not to say that it takes no getting used to if you are wearing the first wrist cuff of your life. At some point you learned to wear a tie, leather-soled shoes (if not, seek more personalized help), and perhaps eyeglasses, contact lenses or a wedding ring. None of these things is any more or less “natural” than your most comfy sweats. At various times and in different places and situations men have worn loin cloths, bear skins, togas, tights, and trousers; earrings (even long, dangling ones with pearls) have come in and gone out of fashion multiple times; and no respectable Homeric warrior would go a-courtin’, for business or pleasure, without a matched pair of Wonder Womanesque  (Conan the Barbarianesque, if you like) bracelets.

If you think your wardrobe complete because you have a belt, a watch and that shell necklace you bought at the beach that you think goes with everything, well, it’s time to grow into the next phase of your life, the one where you know how to fully dress yourself as your full self. These tips will make you the architect of your unique proportions so you can make yourself your self.

It doesn’t get more masculine than this custom designed ox-blood leather and  sterling cuff with Artisan-Invented (and very cool) mechanism

Make it personal. You don’t have to buy or wear a piece as is. Sometimes your clothes must be a sort of uniform, but your jewelry is the perfect arena for personal expression. Links can be taken from a chain or an extension added; pendants can be hung on different chains; metal can be darkened or lightened, scuffed or shined, bent or straightened. Jewelry should be completely personal, and if it is not personal enough it should be further personalized. Make it conform to you, don’t conform to it.

Make it craftsmanship. There are astoundingly talented and imaginative craftspeople working everywhere. Their pieces are already unique and most will do custom work, helping you realize your own creative or deeply personal vision. Don’t buy most of your pieces from department stores or beach kiosks. Visit your local jewelry smiths’ studios, attend open studio weekends and arts and crafts fairs, and shop at artisan-owned jewelry stores.

Make it sexy, not sexist. Many pieces of jewelry are not strictly masculine or feminine. Much depends on the bodily proportions and clothing choices of the wearer, as well as on how the pieces are worn or adapted. Don’t look only at “men’s” jewelry––the selection is limited and much of it unimaginative. Avoid the worst examples of outdated masculinity’s saddest clichés such as gobs of black rubber, endless rows of spikes, and an obsession with steel or platinum––silver, and some gold for those with compatible coloring are the only metals you need to show off your mettle.

Make it over. Pieces with meaning that don’t work can be reincorporated into something else. That shark’s tooth from the beach on that frayed leather cord should not be worn at your neck––cliché––but it might look perfect half buried in a silver wrist cuff. That necklace can be looped and worn as a bracelet, and the medallion from that bracelet can be turned into a necklace. Even stones need not be set in stone: the sapphire from your grandmother’s ring can become the feature of a necklace or a bracelet, but do not just hang a ring on a chain and wear it as if it had become a necklace.

The “napkin ring” cuff (left) with some pals

Make it up. One of my favorite pieces, and one that all who see it covet, is a chunky, hammered silver wrist cuff that looks like Brad Pitt or Eric Bana might have worn it in the film “Troy.” Did I pay a ton outbidding fans in a Hollywood auction? No, It began life, as a napkin ring in a little shop in Tours, France.

Make it a star. Like clothes, jewelry can work great layered. This does not mean, however, that you open your shirt to the navel and just hang a fistful of chunky chains around your neck. Layered necklaces should be different lengths (there are three perfect lengths: Cleft, Cleavage, and Solar Plexus, more on that below); layered bracelets should not make the people at the next table in the restaurant think the waiter broke a tray of glasses; and layered rings depend on the length of your fingers and how hobbit-like your knuckles are. In all cases, there should be a star and supporting players, not a bunch of egomaniacs all screaming for attention.

Now let’s consider necklace length. Length 1, Cleft, is the V-shaped gap below your Adam’s apple, created by your clavicles ending at the sternum without meeting one another. Nothing should be worn higher than the top of this gap, with the sweet spot being at the base of the V or just below. At this length the pendant, or whatever, will be seen when a button front shirt is open only one button below the neck. Depending on the necklace, this length may be worn with a crew neck, but is best worn with a V-neck, or button front. Remember, BELOW the Adam’s apple––on the apple and it’s a choker and you will look like an exotic dancer or someone’s sex slave.

The three features of these two necklaces sit at cleft, cleavage, and solar plexus

As a man your cleavage, or heavage, length 2, is about two inches below your Cleft. To either side are the tops of your pectoral muscles and a pendant hanging at your Cleavage will be seen when two shirt button are undone (when you’re in sexy mode), but will also peek out now and then when one button is undone. This flirtatious game of hide and seek will also happen with a V-neck depending on the depth of the V, and is bound to keep the object of your interest interested. Some necklaces of this length will work over a t-shirt (in summer) or a sweater.

Finally, there is length 3, Solar Plexus. This is just before the bottom of your sternum, often just below a line connecting your nipples. This length must be worn over clothes or in super sexy mode––very deep V, vest with no shirt, cardigan open to just below the solar plexus. A good combo is a tight t-shirt in a neutral color under an open cardigan and a solar plexus necklace. You can also wear this length under a modestly open button-front shirt so that the chain is seen but the answer to what’s hanging on the end of it can be shared with only a select few, after they earn it.

Do not, however, wear empty chains. An object weighs on a chain, pulling it into a V shape, an arrow pointing to the deeper, more intimate parts of you. This V shape is what you work for at the gym, the shape of an athlete, a trim silhouette, while the solo chain creates a soft, round, undefined shape that points nowhere. A V frames your face by opening upward, while the frumpy semi-circle accents creases in your neck (and can be mistaken for one), weakens your jaw, and adds weight to your face. You can wear up to three necklaces together even when their separations do not conform fully to these lengths, if the pendants are of different enough shape and size, but there must be some distance between them. The key is to start with these sweet spots in mind and try things on, and be willing to try on something else.

Suit up and sally forth. Not only should you not be afraid to get bejeweled, you should revel in it. The hardware that is your Jewelry is your chance to express yourself no matter your mood. While you may not be able to afford the complete wardrobes of a pinstriped wheeler-dealer, a non-conformist rock-n-roller, a vintage t-wearing start-up superstar, or a devil-may-care hipster creative type, you can express these and countless other aspects of yourself by changing the proportions, the trim and details on the structure. This ring on that finger with that bracelet and those necklaces (with the right hang) will make you master of your castle. Now, ride forth and conquer.

** Thanks to models Ibrahim Ali-Salaam, Ray Chapman, and Andrew St. Louis; Photographer Roger Sametz; and Jewelsmith Julia Groos.

4 Responses to “A Man Is His Castle: Jewelry For Every Knight”
  1. Luciana says:

    Love it! Can’t wait to see more.

  2. Elena says:

    Great post DuncanRhys!

  3. Daphne says:

    this is a page to bookmark, a definite reference. thank you ! must share with all my boys that could use your guidance in the fashion department (one in particular, ahem, pardon chéri). you should post this on some men’s fashion forums – too good not to be spread around online.

    fabulous pieces above. and love the espresso cups too.

  4. laura says:

    Lovely! I also like the jewelry.

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