When it comes to upping your fashion game, it’s all about the styling. Perhaps you’ve invested in the perfect jacket and handmade leather boots, but you still want to take your style to the next level. Often that next step comes down to the details, and for me that is accessories … primarily jewelry.
But as a guy, knowing what and where to buy jewelry for yourself can be challenging. Go to any department store and you’ll find that the jewelry market is dominated by brands focused on women’s pieces, and you’re left looking at a tiny tray of the usual money clips and occasional silver bracelet. You can also search online, but personally it usually ends up in frustration as I just don’t know where to start or what to look for.
For example, a month ago I set out to find a silver turquoise bracelet. I shopped the local boutiques and large department stores to no end, often times finding myself browsing the women’s jewelry counter in hopes I could find something to pull off with more of a masculine look. It was a complete failure. I turned to the internet, Googling “men’s turquoise bracelet” which also left me overwhelmed and confused on how the piece would actually look on me and if it would be a quality piece or something that would end up in the Halloween costume box!
I needed help in understanding the men’s jewelry market, and why it seemed so limited yet still so complicated. That’s when I discovered William Henry, an American men’s jewelry brand. Founded in 1997, William Henry earned fame for creating exclusive pocket knives. As they continued to grow, they began making writing instruments, money clips, cuff links and yes, men’s jewelry.
Matt Conable, William Henry’s founder and chief designer, started the brand much like how any great artisan brand begins, in a single room with a trash bag over his computer to protect it from the grinding dust as he crafted his first pieces on the adjacent work bench. 20 years and 40 employees later, Matt has created a company that is a leader in the luxury men’s jewelry market. William Henry uses precious metals and gems and their limited collections even utilize unique materials such as fossil mammoth tusks and dinosaur bones, creating what I call prehistoric-modern masterpieces.
I recently sat down with Matt to get his advice for men, like myself, that want to explore their options when it comes to men’s jewelry.
OneUpped: Compared to the women’s jewelry market, companies that specialize in men’s jewelry are limited. Why is this? Is this changing?
MC: Men have shied away from personal statements and adornments in the past. Jewelry was for rockers, bikers, etc. As were tattoos. Not so any more. Early on I recognized that men have few options to express themselves – pocket knives are one choice we offer. Taking that original ‘knife-maker’ DNA and bringing it to wider range of jewelry and accessories gives men more opportunity to express themselves in an evolving culture that recognizes personal expression as valid, regardless of sex, race, class, etc. I would argue that society is getting more diverse, accepting, and imaginative and that is creating more room for new expression. This is a good thing in general, and hopefully for William Henry as well.
OneUpped: What are a few things men should consider when buying jewelry?
MC: What do you like as a guy? Make it personal. Tell a story that fits your sense of self. Whether you’re buying on Etsy or from established brands like William Henry, look for what resonates with you. The best purchases men make are ones that are not trend driven, but timeless. We love to buy a jacket that will last 20 years, as opposed to the color of the fashion season. Buy something that becomes part of you, and it will always find and maintain an important place in your life.
OneUpped: To the guy who is new to wearing jewelry, what advice do you have? What is a good piece(s) to start with?
MC: Bracelets. Simple answer. Play with combinations – stacked or layered bracelets look great and give you the chance to create different looks, weights, and palettes to fit your wardrobe. Understated, bold, chunky, refined, it’s all good. Necklaces and pendants come next, and finally rings.
OneUpped: To the guy that has been upping their jewelry game and trying new pieces, what’s the next step?
MC: It’s not about glitter and drama when it comes to men’s jewelry – it’s about subtlety and a more intimate story. Look for your story – that’s one of my favorite things as a designer – to tell stories. For me, materials imbued with stories and legacy are a great way to connect to our shared history and humanity – hence my frequent use of crazy hand forged metals, fossils, rare organic materials, etc.
OneUpped: With the wide range of men’s jewelry out there when it comes to pricing, why should men make the investment on “finer” pieces?
MC: If they can afford to get better stuff, why wouldn’t they? You tend to get what you pay for, otherwise the broad world of luxury simply wouldn’t exist. One of a kind, unique, hand tool pieces that stand the test of time will be classics for generations. Attention to detail and integrity, from design to engineering to materials to final craft, are a big part of what we do and what a customer should expect when choosing from a brand like William Henry.
OneUpped: There are many stylists that give rules for wearing jewelry; matching metal tones, following dress codes, etc. Are there rules that you stand by or are against?
MC: Honestly, no. I’m not a fashionista, I’m a craftsman who loves to surf and play music when I can. My taste is different from the next guy, and I respect individual choice and expression. It takes all types, I welcome them all, and I love when someone else wears William Henry better than I do.
OneUpped: Any other advice to help guys out there when it comes to jewelry?
MC: I don’t believe in brands, I believe in quality and integrity. Buy what you love for what it is, not for the label. Lead with your heart, trust yourself, live boldly. And take everything I say with a grain of salt – humility and a sense of wonder are an essential part of staying dynamic and relevant.
OneUpped: What’s in store for William Henry for the future?
MC: Always developing new knife designs, pen designs, jewelry designs, and constantly playing with new materials and techniques. Farther out, looking to keeping re-imagining our original DNA in new categories; eyewear, leather, shaving, who knows where the road will lead.
The best message I heard loud and clear from Matt was to focus on choosing jewelry that helps you to tell your story to others. Don’t be afraid to try new pieces, they just might add another chapter to your book.
(Editor’s Note: Thank you to William Henry for sponsoring this editorial. The bracelet featured on Currie Corbin is The Four Bracelet in solid sterling silver. To view their collection visit www.williamhenry.com. Photos of the author are by Matt Vielle.)