“Men can’t wear pearls…” I heard the shopping channel host say as she Oooo’d and Ahhh’d over a pearl necklace and earring set. I only had the TV on in the background but as I was wearing my Honora Pearl earring, the comment made me look up and watch. I wouldn’t say that my sense of style and outfit choices were crazy, outlandish, or overly Avant Garde, but I do know I very often push the boundaries of gender stereotypes. Well known for wearing women’s jackets, carrying Dior bags and having a face full of Estee Lauder, I am the kind of person that will wear whatever I personally like. If it looks good and I feel good in it, then I don’t take any notice whether it was bought from a designated ‘Mens’ or ‘Womens’ department. These days, as men’s fashion evolves rapidly and genderless garments become widely accepted and practiced within the street-style community, and most recently upon Gucci’s runway, the comment made me wonder. Can men really not wear pearls? and do these strict gender stereotypes still exist in fashion?
I personally, have been wearing pearls for several years now, and I even have a favourite go-to pearl brand based in New York called Honora Pearls. They have fabulous quality pearls that are not only great value but absolutely beautiful. Stereotypically however, men do not wear pearls, and there is no good reason for it. So I did a little research, and if we go back in history, say several hundred years, you’ll find that pearls used to adorn the necks of men and women alike, usually those of great wealth and social standing. Within minutes I encountered beautiful images of masculine, powerful and affluent men, Princes, Kings and Monarch’s adorned with huge statement pearl pieces, necklaces, crowns, rings and brooches, and what’s more, there was nothing feminine about them. Men didn’t go small with their pearl jewellery either, the trend of the time was “more is more” and old portraits showed men dripping in beautiful jewels. Pearls used to be prized by men, and historians have found evidence of the trend all over the world, in places such as Britain, China, Greece and India.
(Above: Prince of Dholpur, Below: Unknown)
But that was then, and it’s now 2016 and for some reason, over the last 100 years though the Victorian era, men have lost the love for pearls. As time has gone by, they got a reputation, not only as being seen as a feminine piece for women, but also as being a dated class status, imagine the image you conjure when I say twinset and pearls? and you’ll get what I mean. Following the millennium, as fashion looked towards the future, pearls have seen huge success within women’s jewellery, being reset in new designs and dyed in fresh vibrant colours. Showing that pearls can be fun, yet classic, bringing them back from there dull and dated ways.
I’m male and I love wearing pearls but let’s face it, I’m an exception. So I deleted my search for the history of pearls from google and replaced it with ‘Men in Pearls’. To my surprise, my feelings, and views on gender fluidity, are being shared at an alarming rate. I may have been wearing pearls for several years, but it looks like I haven’t been the only one. There is a rise in popularity with men sharing my vision, and yes, men gay or straight are wearing pearl jewellery. Forget cream pearls all neatly strung onto a delicate bracelet though, as the trend for men wearing pearls starts to bubble to the surface, pearls are being teamed with leather, in masculine colours of greys and black.
(Above: Unknown Model, Below: Designer Giambattista Valli)
So not only does this show that men being slightly different, unique and taking risks in fashion is certainly becoming more acceptable. Something that woman have been doing for years, it also answers my question. Can men really not wear pearls? Well, if you’re male and can do up a chunky black pearl and leather bracelet, then yes, men can wear pearls, and there’s nothing ‘sissy’ about it…