Neckrophilia Nick Foulkes has noticed a curious side-effect of his reluctant decision to give up the ‘man bangle’ he’s compensating by adorning his neck with jewellery instead
Nick Foulkes has noticed a curious side-effect of his reluctant decision to give up the ‘man bangle’ — he’s compensating by adorning his neck with jewellery instead
IT IS HARD being a man in the 21st century, and no, I do not mean the existential anguish of being a post-New Man in a post-Fifty Shades of Grey world. I am of course referring to the absence of opportunity to wear jewellery — real jewellery, that is.
My pain has been intensified by the fact that I have recently taken to visiting jewellery shows in Paris and I have found that I enjoy looking at jewellery I am unable to wear almost as much I enjoy looking at watches I cannot afford. I adore the history of the great jewellers, I love learning about the stones, I am amazed at the methods used to achieve those stunning prismatic sprays of lambency and I delight in the sleight of the craftsman’s hand.
Of course I know that things are, mercifully, a lot less strict than they were when I was growing up, when the only jewellery a gentleman would consider wearing comprised a watch, cufflinks and maybe a crested signet ring.
Since then we have moved on and men are permitted a little more self-expression when it comes to tinselling themselves with gewgaws, but alas, in practice this has meant the hegemony of the banker bangle, which has usurped braces as the personal signifier of the modern financier. You know the look: a few ill-assorted bracelets (usually involving something by Shamballa) worn by the sort of man who thinks that by not wearing a tie to work he is the next Arki Busson.
Not that there is anything wrong with a little wrist candy, provided it is done with originality. Until recently I sported half a forearm of the things — not always convenient, it has to be said. I know what Daphne Guinness must have felt like going through airport security when she was in her chainmail and armour phase.
But now my wrist seems almost naked: I still keep a big bangle of elephant hair and a very skinny bracelet of elongated links made by Cartier London in the Sixties, but for the moment at least I have retired my other wrist-wear (although I do still harbour a longing for a gold Mavros bangle and I continually regret selling my Aldo Cipullo nail bracelet, especially since it has been relaunched by Cartier).
It is just that with the man bangle having gone mainstream, some of the fun has gone out of it. I don’t mean to be rude, but if a bunch of Arki Bussonalikes are piling on the bangles, do I really want to be mistaken for a financial adviser?
HOWEVER, AT HEART I am the sort of person who, pausing in front of the mirror when leaving the house, does not look for something to subtract from my ensemble, but instead searches for space to add that little extra something. Although I may have muted the carpal manifestation of my magpie tendency, it has chosen to flare up on my fingers and neck as, almost without noticing it, I have started to wear more in the way of rings and necklaces.
Among the things jangling around my neck are: an agate skull that Caroline Scheufele made me, a vintage astrological pendant made in the Sixties by Van Cleef, a Cartier charm and an old coin that looks crudely Roman (but to be honest could be a particularly knackered pre-decimal thrupenny bit).
When it comes to the medallion, I reckon anything over 3.75cm verges on the parodic, yet worryingly I have found myself coveting ever larger neck ornaments. A few years ago I saw a man at the beach at the Marbella Club wearing a piece of carved antique nephrite the size of a small ashtray that had been pimped by Cartier in the Thirties, and now I rather fancy one myself.
On the fingers, the long-term resident, a cameo of Socrates, has been joined by a ring in the textured gold of Grima, an intaglio that I believe to be from the Punic era carved into fossilised wood (albeit fossilised wood that looks like petrified Mars bar) that I had made into a ring and an antic, almost baroque, gargoyle ring that had lain unsold for 41 years in a drawer in Alberto Nardi’s eponymous Venetian shop until I bought it this Easter.
I remember being struck by a passage in a set of parliamentary memoirs that recalled Disraeli’s appearance in the House. As I recall it, even when an old man and the grand panjandrum of the Victorian imperium, Dizzy still kept up the dandified habits of his youth.
The early 19th century was a barbaric time, but at least then men could bedizen themselves with gold chains, elaborate pins and rings, with a chatelaine full of seals and keys jangling at the waistband like a male charm bracelet, and it seems that Disraeli reminded himself of those days by wearing rings over his gloved fingers. It is the kind of throwaway detail that somehow liberates Lord Beaconsfield from the trammels of history.
However, while I may dream of Disraeli, I harbour the lurking fear that my look is actually closer to that of John McCririck.
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