There's a bit of a barrier for men to get over regarding any sort of jewelry, and necklaces are considered one of the hardest items to wear.
But take your cue from the professionals — men can and do look great wearing necklaces.
It just takes a little know-how.
Necklaces & Men's Style
A necklace for a guy is a little bit different than one for a woman.
For one thing, men are never going to wear anything that could be considered “costume jewelry” — the big, chunky stuff with rows of jewels that you'll see accompanying evening gowns. That's strictly a woman's fashion.
There's also much less of an idea among designers that the jewelry should be the centerpiece of an outfit. Men's jewelry is meant to complement, not to overwhelm.
That means necklaces that are a little more rugged and rough around the edges. Good jewelry for men should look natural — like you've been wearing it for years, after it was given to you by your grandfather, who wore it for years before you.
You'll see some brighter, shinier stuff, of course, and even the massive “bling” of urban caricature. And there'll be some very light and fragile designs here and there too, but at either extreme you're talking about exceptions to the rule. They catch people's attention precisely because they're so outlandish.
Most men who wear necklaces well won't be noticeable for their jewelry. You'll just see them as “stylish,” and then notice the accents over time.
Below is a video summary in which I discuss the 5 styles – make sure to read through the article for more details.
Click Here To Watch The Youtube Video 5 Masculine Male Necklaces Every Man Should Consider
Click Here To Watch The Youtube Video 5 Masculine Male Necklaces Every Man Should Consider
5 Styles Of Necklace For Men
There are broad families of necklace styles worth knowing about. These have been traditionally masculine styles for years (although some are worn by women as well), and they're natural pairs for a classic man's style.
1. Dog Tags
Military style dog tags are functionally just a specialized pendant, but they bear mention on their own, if only because more and more jewelers seem to be making upscale versions.
Your basic dog tags, obviously, are a pair of tabs on a ball chain with text on them. Actual military tags usually list the wearer's name and medical information, and sometimes rank and religious preference.
Decorative takes on the style often keep the blank ovaloid shape but replace the text with an image or raised design. The ball chain may also be replaced with something finer and flashier.
Different people are going to have different takes on this style. Some people love the nod to military style; other people find it disrespectful of actual servicemen and servicewomen, as it trivializes a fairly serious piece of identification.
Wear them if it's really your style, but be aware that not everyone's going to love it — and don't wear a flashy set into a VFW post if you didn't serve.
Plain, unornamented chains of metal are a classic male adornment. They can create any number of looks, depending on the metal used, the length of the chain, and the style of links and the method of fastening them.
The most classic style of chain necklace has relatively flat loops, spaced close together so that the chain appears as almost a solid ribbon of metal, and is long enough to fall a bit below the collarbone.
These have been seen on men (including men with no other stylish accents in their outfit) for the better part of a century. They're a statement on their own, whether they're worn with a white T-shirt or a suit.
The key to wearing a chain well is modesty. Keep the style understated, and keep the chain underneath your shirt. The small amount that's visible is enough to make your statement for you.
Because the metal basically defines how the entire chain looks, it's worth spending more to get a higher-quality product here. Avoid cheap alternatives and go for a quality gold, silver, or platinum.
3. Religious Emblems
Worth a quick mention are the various necklaces that denote religious affiliation or are tied to faith.
Some of these are required/encouraged by specific faiths or sects, while others are merely personal displays of belief.
Most will be of the pendant style. Christian crosses, Stars of David, scapulars, and other symbols can all be made into dangling ornaments easily enough.
In most cases, these are worn under the shirt, against the body on a chain long enough that the ornament falls below the neckline.
My opinion is that these pieces should be understated and simple — fine to share with people in situations where you're taking your shirt off, but you don't want it to be the first thing someone notices about you in a crowded bar.
That doesn't mean there aren't large, metallic or jeweled cross pendants and things like that out there, of course. They're just not going to be the sort of quiet, stylish accent piece that a man's jewelry ideally should be.
It's an incredibly broad term, but a pendant-style necklace basically just means a single small ornament on a relatively long chain or cord, such that the ornament rests below your neck.
These are common, popular, and versatile. The ornament can be anything from a shaped jewel to a clay tablet with a character etched on it to a tiny vial or scroll case, or just about anything else. As long as it's small enough to rest comfortably against your breastbone, it'll work.
Pendants can be worn outside casual shirts like T-shirts, but are usually tucked underneath anything with a turn-down collar. A deep V-neck may, of course, bare enough of the chest that the pendant can be seen against the bare skin.
A choker is basically the opposite of a pendant: it's a solid band around the neck that doesn't hang down, often broken with ornaments or designs at regular intervals.
Dog collars are a style of choker; so are the woven hemp necklaces popular in surfer and hippie culture.
Fashionable men have taken advantage of toned-down variations on both, so don't be afraid to sport some leather or rope around your neck. Just make sure it's not too over the top, and give yourself enough room in the fit that it's comfortable.
Metal chokers are relatively uncommon. So are chokers with an ornament hanging from the front — that looks a bit too much like a pet with its tags hanging from its collar for most people's taste, and not in a hardcore, military-style dogtag kind of way.
Chains & Cords
If your necklace has an ornament on it, that can be anything. No, seriously — anything. People wear jewels, they wear carved wood; they wear laminated Scrabble tiles. It would be impossible to try and categorize the options for necklace ornaments in any meaningful way.
The chain or cord on which the ornament (if any) hangs, on the other hand, can only take so many forms. Between the material used and the length, the chain is giving your necklace a lot of its character, so take the time to understand what it's saying — no matter what ornaments you're hanging on it.
Unless you're wearing deep V-necks, the part of your necklace that people see the most of is probably going to be the chain/cord.
Here's how some of the most common items will affect your outfits:
- Precious metals are meant to be seen and noticed. Keep them slim, especially if they're supporting an ornament as well, and be aware that they're drawing a lot of attention. The rest of your outfit doesn't have to be fancy — if it gets too visually busy, you start to look overwhelming. Simple is best with metal chains.
- Steel ball chains are a slim, utilitarian style frequently used for long pendants. They're relatively minimalist, and won't distract from the rest of your outfit. Wear them when you don't want your necklace to stand out (especially if the ornament is hidden under a shirt).
- Leather thongs are a little bigger than ball chains, but not as eye-catching as bright metal. They give a relaxed, natural look that goes well with casual clothing and modern styles. They're less ideal with collared shirts and business wear.
- Hemp and rope cord are most common in chokers, where they're woven into larger arrangements. These have a casual, outdoorsy look that most people will associate with hippies, surfers, and guys who camp a lot. On their own, as a single cord, they look a little flimsy and scruffy.
- Ribbons or colored cords made from a cloth like velvet are generally reserved for medals, not for decorative jewelry. It's a bit too feminine for most men's style, no matter what the ornament is.
Remember that chains can easily be swapped — just because you bought a pendant on a stainless silver chain doesn't mean you can't wear it on a leather thong.
The ability to swap cords in and out is part of what makes necklaces such a versatile part of the wardrobe. Once you own three or four pendants that you like, you can buy a couple extra chains/cords and suddenly find yourself with over a dozen different necklace options.
Where the ornament hangs on your chest (or the nadir of the chain, if you have no pendant) affects both the overall style of a necklace and the types of shirts it goes well with.
- Short, choker-style necklaces can be worn with just about anything, short of a suit and tie. They look unusual underneath a dress shirt or other turn-down collar, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. On their own above a low collar, of course, they stand out on their own, and viewers can see the whole necklace.
- Mid-length chains that end right around the base of the neck or the top of the breastbone are typical for unornamented metal chains. This leaves most of the links visible with an open shirt collar, or with a non-turndown collar like a T-shirt's. On the other hand, it's the most awkward length for a pendant, since the ornament will fall under the collar on some shirts, above it on others, and awkwardly halfway-covered on a few.
- Long chains or cords are good for pendants, but often hide them underneath your shirt. The ornaments attached to them will generally only be worn outside very casual outfits, meaning you'll need a V-neck or a few open buttons if you want the pendant to be visible.
As with the materials, remember that you can always swap chains and cords in and out — and, in the case of metal chains, you can even have a jeweler shorten them, though if you can avoid the expense by buying the right length in the first place it's obviously preferable.
Men's Necklaces: Conclusion
A good necklace is an accent piece for a well-dressed man, just like a ring or a necktie or a good set of cufflinks. It's not going to be something he wears every day, or with every outfit (except in the case of religious necklaces, or something else kept under the shirt as a personal token).
You don't want to be known for a specific piece of jewelry. Mix it up and enjoy expanding your collection from time to time. A few good pendants and a wide selection of cords and chains gives you a large number of possibilities, once you start mixing and matching.
And don't be shy. If you look good, you look good, no matter what accents you're wearing.
Need tips on how to buy jewelry?
Check out this article we have on Tips On How To Buy Men's Jewelry | What Your Jeweler Might Not Be Telling You