From sporting grandma’s pearls with an edge to minimalistic neck chains, OTT rings and chunky metallics, these boys are’ blinging’ it with their androgynous take on jewelled accessories.
The new rules of fashion simply state that there are no rules, especially when it comes to experimenting with gender-neutral outfits and accessory choices. A fresh new crop of male celebrities—both Indian and international— are all in for bending the rules with their choice of jewellery. From sporting grandma’s pearls with an edge to minimalistic neck chains, OTT rings and chunky metallics, these boys are’ blinging’ it with their androgynous take on accessories.
Noida-based Mayank Choudhary had been fascinated with jewellery since he was a kid, but began buying it regularly after he started working. Today, his versatile collection ranges from dramatic south Indian temple jewellery and vintage rings to minimalistic silver chains. “You’ll always find jewellery on my body – it completes the overall look and it’s fun to have a ring or chain on,” says Choudhary, 24. “I often get them as gifts from friends and family too.” His favourite? A large hand-painted neck accessory made of cloth and beads made by artisans from Shantiniketan, West Bengal.
Men’s jewellery is no longer confined to conventional engagement rings and formal cufflinks. It is increasingly entering the realm of everyday wear as more young men open up to the idea of adding a little glitter and sparkle to their wardrobe to express themselves.
Mumbai-based brand Lune launched a men’s segment in 2020 after founder Sreesha Shetty realised that a lot of men had been wearing their unisex jewellery. “Often we find men donning pieces they’ve stolen from their girlfriends or sisters,” says Shetty. Her inspiration was her younger brother Rohan, who tried the designs. The collection is made with 18-carat gold, sterling silver, brass, lapis lazuli and mother-of-pearl in versatile and classic designs. The most popular pieces include chains, yin-yang necklaces, cuffs, moon medallion, small hoops and even nose pins.
“A lot of men have piercings but don’t have a place to buy earrings from,” she says. “Growing up in Goa, I’ve seen men with experimental piercings in the hippie movement so it’s exciting to see men with nose pins again.” Lune’s pieces have recently been spotted on actors Saif Ali Khan, Vicky Kaushal and Ishaan Khatter.
The practice of men wearing jewellery isn’t exactly a new trend but it has become a rare sight in the metros. “Men in India have worn jewellery for eons – my grandfather had it, my father’s generation always wore a chain or a ring,” Shetty says. “In the early 2000s, men stopped wearing jewellery but with the influence of streetwear, they want to experiment with style though there are very few options for them.”
Celebrity stylist Pranay Jaitly, who counts his kada, Tiffany band, and evil eye necklace as his mainstays, says he often bought jewellery from the women’s section due to lack of options for men. “But then, jewellery is so fluid that you can just make a piece yours by wearing it the way you want,” he says. “For a long time, I wore earrings as collar pins.”
This interest is also reflected in rising sales. Jewellery brand Bluestone has seen a 20% growth in men’s jewellery year on year, with rings, chains, bracelets, brooches and single gold and diamond ear studs being bestsellers. “Now, more men want to express their personality and jewellery is an integral part of the overall look,” says chief merchandising officer Vipin Sharma. “Earlier, men were often wary of going to jewellery shops but now they’re more comfortable.”
Even big brands like Tanishq and Malabar Gold are venturing into men’s jewellery. Rohan Narang, MD, Hazoorilal Legacy jewellers says the category is on an upward trajectory thanks to millennial and Gen Z buyers. “Gender fluid designs, Cuban link chains, and bracelets, and stackable, lighter pieces are en vogue with the younger lot,” he says.
Online jewellery startup Giva recently launched a daily wear collection for men when they began getting queries about gifts for boyfriends or husbands. Founder Ishendra Agarwal says that 30% of their stock sold out within a week of its launch, with zircon rings, lion and dog tag pendants being especially popular. “A young professional who had just started working told us he had been looking for modern designs since all he could find were ‘god’ chains or traditional styles,” says Agarwal, who estimates that the men’s jewellery market in India is worth 20 billion dollars.
Giva’s customers include people like Delhi-based content strategist Piyush Tiwari, who hadn’t worn any jewellery until college. Influenced by punk culture and rock music, Tiwari began making his own trinkets from wire. Once he started working, he graduated to silver chains, pendants and rings. “For me, jewellery brings a certain confidence that I can carry it off well,” Tiwari, 25, says.
This openness towards jewellery is indicative of changing attitudes towards rigid gendered ways of dressing. Several indie brands are foraying into androgynous jewellery which can be worn by both men and women. Delhi-based Eurumme recently launched a genderfluid collection, with minimal designs in recycled brass with an oxidised finish. “Different people subscribe to different identities and we wanted to have something for you, irrespective of your gender,” founder Eishita Puri says.
Eurumme’s bestsellers include rings, bangles, chains as well as chunky earrings. They also get many requests from couples or siblings of different genders who like to twin and wear the same pieces. While their customer base used to comprise only women, 50% are now men.
Yet, there are still some social apprehensions and taboos. Choudhary says that he is careful when travelling to certain parts of Delhi NCR for work. “If I think my neck jewellery might attract negative attention, I’ll take it out and put it on later when I’m at a safe place where I can be myself,” he says. Shetty’s brother Rohan recalls getting questions from some friends about why he’s wearing jewellery or whether he’s just come out of the closet. “I mostly dress in masculine baggy casuals, so my chain and ring balance out the look,” he says.
While heads still turn when men put on jewellery, Puri says they are increasingly more open to flaunting it. Puri and her husband often wear the same cuffs and adjustable rings, and he also accessorises with bracelets and studs. “These taboos are ironic because men have always worn jewellery in India,” says Puri. “Even if we look back at history, all the maharajas were adorned in jewellery from head to toe and even today in rural Rajasthan, men sport nose rings and toe rings.”
Global cultural influences too have made jewellery more popular among the younger generation. “While millennials are still hesitant, Gen Z is a lot more comfortable with jewellery,” says Shetty of Lune, adding that they have regular male customers who come in to buy pieces at their store every month.
For jewellery designer Suhani Parekh, old European paintings of men decked up in decadent pearls and stones served as inspiration for her brand Misho’s recent men’s collection. Misho Man features zodiac medallions, stone bracelets, clip-on earrings, black pearl pendants and structured architectural rings. “Today, as you see fashion icons and celebrities sporting jewellery, it becomes less and less of a strange thing,” Parekh says.
She adds that men who want to try jewellery can start with something simple, minimal and versatile. “Try it on a holiday and then see how you can build it into your wardrobe,” she adds.