Why Men Once Wore More Jewelry Than Women, but Not Anymore

year ago

The King of England, Henry VIII, ancient Roman horsemen, and the pharaoh Tutankhamun. What do these 3 historical characters have in common? The answer might not be too obvious. Each of these great men is known for wearing various types of jewelry. If you’ve ever walked around a museum and, looking at different paintings, thought about why men no longer wear as many jewels as they used to, we’re about to tell you a story that answers this question.

We at Bright Side dug into the fascinating history of male fashion, found out what caused men to stop wearing jewelry, and we want to share these findings with our readers.

Men used to wear more jewelry than women did.

Jewelry has never been an exclusively female attribute. Even in the earliest historical accounts, male hunters used animal antlers, tusks, and bones as a decoration. Later, on the mosaics depicting Byzantinian rulers, men can be seen wearing golden bracelets and earrings. And by the time of the rule of King Henry VIII in England in the Middle Ages, men wore perhaps even more decorative jewelry than women.

Jewelry was an indicator of wealth, status, and power.

Historically, jewels have been used for many different purposes. First of all, it was an attribute of wealth and prosperity. The richer the jewelry was, the more prosperous the family was. The jewelry’s ornaments were the indicators of a specific rank and position. Jewels also reflected the religious traditions of different cultures and rings were used as family attributes and signature stamps.

However, it was not just noblemen who wore jewelry. European merchants during the period of the Renaissance, which were exclusively male, used signet rings as stamps to mark the goods transported overseas.

And pirates, who were hijacking the ships and stealing those merchants’ cargo, wore various earrings for different purposes. The pirates believed that the golden ring earrings possessed magical healing powers. Though, the earring also had a practical use and a symbolic meaning. Sailors inscribed their home port’s names inside the earrings, so their bodies were sent back to their families in case they died far away from home. As for the symbolism behind the sailors’ earrings, as legend says, the young sailors got their first earrings after they passed the equator for the first time.

Things shifted not very long ago.

As we have already revealed, for the most significant part of human history, men — kings, warriors, and commoners — wore jewelry for various purposes.

In Western society, jewelry was considered to be an indicator of masculinity for a long time. It started to change in the Victorian era, in the 19th century, along with the rise of the middle class, after the Industrial Revolution. Studies say that, at the time, jewelry became unaffordable for the biggest part of the population — the middle class. And even though rapid manufacturing slightly decreased the prices of jewelry, it was not convenient for working men to wear a lot of jewelry. Men started using jewelry just for practical purposes, like wearing wristwatches, and those still wearing numerous bright treasures were called “fops.”

This trend continued into the 20th century as well. Studies say that society developed specific norms and taboos that were not accepting of men wearing jewelry as a norm. It was treated as something not masculine enough. As a result, men’s jewelry-wearing traditions became limited to minimalistic jewelry pieces in a minimal number.

However, recently, it has started to change.

Invision/Invision/East News, Gilbert Flores /Broadimage/Broad Image/East News

Today, despite the still existing pressure from society and the fact that jewelry is still treated as a rather female feature, men are going back to their rich background in fashion and have started experimenting with jewelry. Harry Styles walked on the red carpet with a beautiful pearl earring, and A$AP Rocky wears Baroque-style gold necklaces.

Slowly, men are rejecting boundaries and expressing themselves the way they want to. We believe that this makes them even more handsome. How about you?

Did you know the history of male jewelry trends? What do you think about men wearing jewelry today?

Please note: This article was updated in September 2022 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.


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