Men have worn necklaces for thousands of years, looking powerful and masculine while doing it. You want to wear a necklace too and take your style up a notch – but how do men wear necklaces?
That's the purpose of today's article! In this article, you'll find:
- Male Jewelry & Style
- The 5 Essential Necklace Styles
- Chains & Cords
How Do Men Wear Necklaces: Male Jewelry & Style
Necklaces for guys are different than women's necklaces.
For one thing, men are never going to wear anything that could be considered ‘costume jewelry' — the big, chunky stuff with rows of jewels women wear with evening gowns. That's strictly a woman's fashion.
It's also not the case that a man's jewelry should be the centerpiece of an outfit.
Men's jewelry is meant to complement, not to overwhelm.
That means necklaces for men are less showy and instead slightly rugged or rough around the edges. Good jewelry for men should look natural — like you've been wearing it for years and it was given to you by your grandfather who inherited from his father and so on.
You'll see some bigger, shinier stuff available of course. There will be also some light and fragile designs here and there too. At either extreme though you're talking about exceptions to the rule. These pieces draw eyes precisely because they go against norms.
The jewelry most men wear will be very subtle. You'll just see them as stylish men and over time notice the accessories they use to create killer looks.
How Do Men Wear Necklaces: The 5 Essential Styles
There are five broad families of necklace styles worth knowing about. These have been traditional masculine styles for years and they naturally pair with classic men's outfits.
Men's Necklace Style #1 Dog Tags
Military-style dog tags are functionally just a specialized pendant, but they bear mention on their own, if only because increasingly jewelers offer upscale versions.
Your basic dog tags 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 plus their rank and religious preference sometimes.
Decorative takes on the style often replace this text with an image or raised design. The ball chain may also be replaced with something finer and flashier.
Understand that people are going to have different opinions on this style. Some people love the nod to military fashion style. Other people find it disrespectful to actual servicemen and servicewomen because it trivializes an official piece of identification.
As a former Marine, I say wear them if it's really your style. Just be aware that not everyone's going to love it. Don't wear a flashy set into a VFW post if you didn't serve!
Men's Necklace Style #2 Chains
Plain, unornamented chains of metal are classic male jewelry. They can create any number of looks depending on the metal, chain length, style of links and method of fastening them.
The most classic style of chain necklace has relatively flat loops spaced close together. The chain almost looks like a solid ribbon of metal and is long enough to fall slightly below the collarbone.
These have been worn by men for the better part of a century and are a statement on their own whether they're worn to dress up a T-shirt or a suit. The key to pulling off a chain 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.
The metal defines the entire chain's look so it's worth spending more to get a higher-quality product here. Avoid cheap alternatives and go for solid stainless steel or precious metals like gold and silver.
Men's Necklace Style #3 Religious Emblems
The various necklaces that denote religious affiliation or are tied to faith are also worth including. Some are required/encouraged by specific faiths or sects while others are 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. These are normally 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. You don't want it to be the first thing someone notices about you from the other side of a room though.
This doesn't mean there aren't large, metallic or jeweled cross pendants and things like that out there. They're just not going to be the sort of quiet, stylish accent piece that a man's jewelry ideally should be.
Men's Necklace Style #4 Pendants
It's an incredibly broad term, but a pendant-style necklace basically just means a single ornament on a long, thin chain or cord.
These are common, popular and versatile. The ornament can be anything from a shaped jewel to a tiny vial or scroll case. Anything will work as long as it's small enough to rest comfortably below your neck and against your breastbone.
Pendants can be worn outside casual shirts like T-shirts but are usually tucked underneath any shirt with a turn-down collar. Something to be aware of is a deep V-neck may show enough of your chest for a pendant on a short cord to be seen. You might like this style or it might be a reason for you to avoid deep V's.
Men's Necklace Style #5 Chokers
A choker is a thick, 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 dog tag kind of way.
How Do Men Wear Necklaces: Chains & Cords
The truth is, how a man should wear jewelry and what jewelry men can wear are fluid concepts. The chain or cord of a necklace can take many, 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 your options and the message you are sending.
What are men's necklace chains made of?
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 or 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 and be aware that they're drawing a lot of attention. The rest of your outfit doesn't have to be fancy — if you have too many items vying for someone's attention your outfit becomes visually 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 less eye-catching than bright metal. They give you a relaxed, natural look that goes well with casual clothing and modern styles. However, they're less ideal with collared shirts and men's modern business attire.
- 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 outdoorsy guys.
- Ribbons or colored cords made from cloth such as 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.
TIP: How do men wear necklaces without getting bored of them? The answer is versatility. Never forget you can always swap cords and chains. Once you have three or four pendants and a few extra chains or cords you'll suddenly find yourself with over a dozen different necklace options.
What is the best chain length for men?
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 men's dress shirt any shirt with a turn-down collar. It's not necessarily a bad thing though. On their own above a low collar, of course, they stand out on their own, and viewers can see the whole necklace.
- Medium-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. You can even have a jeweler shorten metal chains if your preference changes.
How Do Men Wear Necklaces: Conclusion
A good necklace can be a great accent piece for a well-dressed man just like a men's ring, necktie or a good set of cufflinks. It just might not be something you wear 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 give you a huge number of possibilities once you start mixing and matching!
Lastly, wear your necklace with confidence. If you look good, you look good!
Click below to watch the video – 5 Men's Necklace Styles