July 1998
s m u g
smoking jacket
by Jack Smith

A Man's Guide to Jewelry

I've always dreaded the day when I'd see a man wearing no shirt and a waist bracelet. Yet, I know this day is coming. Combined with the stresses of home and work and the disappearance of Jim Varney from the big screen, modern man lacks direction when it comes to accessorizing. Specifically, none of us has a guide for the type and amount of jewelry we should or shouldn't be wearing. Anarchy is prevailing with men in all walks of life wearing things like toe rings, turquoise and 'Mechanics do it with greasy hands' belt buckles. Enough is enough. It's time for someone to step forward and draw the line in the sand. Since Mr. Blackwell lacks the guts to take on such a complex and far reaching issue, I'm ready to step up and become the arbiter of good jewelry taste, lest I ever see a Teamster wearing a studded dog collar.

The general rule when it comes to all accessories especially jewelry is this -- the simpler in color and style the clothes, the more you can accessorize. It's a bit tricky and this is the place where most men falter. A simple blue Brooks Brothers suit can be dressed up with a tattoo, a skull ring and a Mighty Mouse watch. But change the suit colour to baby shit yellow and a simple, lone timepiece necklace ala Flavor Flav is all you need for that 'Out on Wall Street and knows what time it is' look.

I like to say that if you're in doubt use Jack's Jewelry Yardstick: always stay somewhere between Chairman Mao and the T's, Ice and Mr. For most men, that's not enough, unfortunately. So, I've taken the extra step to categorize different types of accoutrements with a general usage outline and a few specific do's and don'ts.


What began as a way for the fashionable swashbuckler to softly say, 'Stand aside and prepare to be boarded,' has become the preferred method for junior high school kids to say, "I'm from the suburbs and just like all my friends I've been to the Piercing Kiosk at the mall." I've seen more improper uses of earrings than any of other piece of jewelry and further earrings have prepared the world for the piercing of all sorts of body parts that were never meant to be pierced. (John Thomases and tallywackers to be specific.) Still for a small segment of the male population earrings and other piercings work surprisingly well as a way to pick up women. It's not quite as popular as "I've been to jail" but it's moving up in the standings.

Do wear hoops under one inch in diameter and plumbing accessories. Don't wear dangling dream catchers with feathers unless you live on a reservation or play bass for a southern rock band.


My grandfather wore a diamond cluster pinky ring that he bought from a guy named Kingfish, a 6'3' ex-Marine who always chewed on a half-smoked cheap cigar. While normally identified with certain ethnic groups, the pinky ring was introduced to the south by an Italian pro wrestler called Il Masque du Capo. It caught on quickly among the large American automobile crowd. (Read old white guys like Kingfish and my grandfather.) I can't recommend the pinky ring or any type of ring more highly. Though keeping with my less is more philosophy I prefer an understated small one with diamonds in the shape of a horseshoe to the Super Bowl ring.

Do wear wedding bands.
Don't wear silver goth rings on all your fingers.
Don't wear those Irish rings with the heart with a crown being held up by two hands unless your name is Angus.

Most people don't consider dogs jewelry. But, I only mention dogs because of Mickey Rourke who for the past several years has been seen at every public appearance with a herd of snack sized dogs. He's always wearing these things around. When I first saw him, I thought it was a performance piece. I quickly figured out that it was just an error in judgement. Although, it's hard to challenge a guy as prone to violence as Mr Rourke, it's just silly for a grown man to coo over a bunch of mutts like a 75 year old granny. I'm going to nip this one in the bud before other meat heads start wearing dogs.

Don't wear dobermans.
Don't wear poodles.
Don't wear hairless Mexican dogs. Defying this rule is like wearing around a shirt with "Yo quiero dignity" printed on both sides in 200 point Helvetica.


Nothing says, 'I love the Lord' more than a 'Jesus in 2000: He's tan, rested, and ready' button. It's a show of faith. It's also a little insurance if on judgement day the scales are slightly tipping to hell. St Peter will say, 'I remember you. You're the one with the button that said how great the Lord is. Open the gates, boys. We've got one coming through.' If you're happy and you know it, why not tell everyone'

Do wear political buttons.
Do wear military ribbons especially if you're French or Russian.
Don't wear cameos unless you work at Paisley Park.


For many years, I was envious of Henry Rollins not only for his uncanny ability to endlessly walk in circles on stage but also for the girth of his neck. Many times I've wondered just how fat (and phat) a gold chain I could sport with if I had a neck like HR. I realized though about two weeks ago why Hank has resisted the Gold Rush - he simply didn't want to hide an inch of something that too so many years in the gym (and in the van) to create. I'm torn. I can argue his point convincingly, but with a neck as skinny as mine I need to beef it up a bit. When it comes to necklaces, I say I don't want it. I don't want it. Then I slip it on.

Do wear time pieces. (Especially if you're a pit crew chief or a rapper with gold teeth.)
Don't wear hemp anything unless you enjoy getting a cavity search during routine traffic stops.


Sammy Hagar set the standard for 80's wristwear. He combined the quantity normally associated with Cure fans with gaskets, old charm bracelets, dog chains, and his signature touch, the red handkerchief. At least that's how I'll always remember him. He was the first person to vogue on the junkyard tip and made bracelets safe for 35 year old Album Rock fans and mopey, ironic scenesters alike. In the late 90's Robert Smith started tying his sneakers and the pendulum has gone the other way with a lone, black spiked bracelet the accessory de rigeur. (For an extra special Christmas gift, buy a spiked leather bracelet and wrap it in a robin's egg blue Tiffany box. Won't your mom be surprised when she opens that?)

Don't wear tennis bracelets. They don't help your game.
Do wear Medic Alert bracelets. Diabetes and Epileptic are especially popular this year.

I hope these rough guidelines will get you started on the proper amount and type of jewelry. Just remember to think before you do any accessorizing. When you do decide to take the plunge and dole out your hard earned cash, feel free to experiment to find out what works best for you and your personal style. Just remember to always purchase things that will remain stylish for a lifetime. That's why tattoos are a good accessory investment. As Coco Chanel once said, "If that Planet of the Apes backpiece looks good when you're 24, think how cool it'll be when you're 75 and the monkeys have filled in with real hair."




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