While looking back at the styles and trends of vintage men’s jewelry in the 1900’s. It is easy to understand some of the more popular cliches. Such as the line in ZZ Top’s famous song “‘Cause every girl crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man”. The men’s fashion of yesterday was far more sophisticated. Whereas today’s trends lean more to the casual side.
Men’s fashions during this early 1900’s were far more formal than we see today. With different outfits for the morning, afternoon, and evening. From the morning coat to the sack suit of the day wear. Jewelry such as cufflinks and collar buttons would be a necessity. While every gentleman owned a pocket watch with a chain and fob.
Still, a man’s evening wear or formal wear stood out with refinement, as it often includes a silk top hat and cane. These fashions accessorized with matching shirt studs and cufflinks to complete the attire.
Vintage Men’s Jewelry from the Edwardian Era
The Edwardian Era brought tremendous changes to the fashion industry. For the first time in history, clothing became mass produced. With the lowering cost allowing all men to look proper. With less regard to their financial standings
From the late 1800’s into the 20th century, the ascot became the popular form of neckwear in business attire. Giving rise to the men’s stick pin needed to hold the loosely tied cloth in place. Generally, gold or silver this vintage men’s jewelry most often has accents of colorful jewels or glass.
Another mainstay of a man’s attire during this era was the stiff detachable collar. Which men bejeweled with dazzling Collar buttons. Although we rarely see them today, during the turn of the 1900’s these were big business for the jewelry industry. As millions of mother of pearl buttons sold each year.
Needless to say, the advances in machine-made clothing had a major effect on the middle class. As men became more self-conscious about their dress and appearance. For the first time in history, the sell of men’s jewelry began to gain ground on women’s jewelry.
With accessories such as the shirt studs and matching cuff links. While flashy studs and links are still popular today for formal dress-shirts. In the early 1900’s these pieces of jewelry are an everyday accessory.
Most often embellished with mother of pearl. While the more influential man might dress with either diamonds or sapphires.
By 1910 men’s fashions began to change. The detachable collar became one of the first to fade from fashion. For years collars deteriorated long before the shirt due to soiling and damage. Yet with the invention of the washing machine in 1907 this problem subsided.
This, along with the differences in taste between generations more changes came. But the largest effect came with World War I.
The Changes to Vintage Men’s Jewelry During WWI
A staple of the man’s wardrobe since the 16th century, the pocket-watch began to lose favor after World War I. At first, thought to be a silly fad. American’s made fun of the Europian bracelet watch. With the New York Times mocking “Time has Migrated to the Human Wrist”.
Yet the fad had a military beginning. The movements in trench warfare required precise timing. Where a soldier fumbling through for a watch was unacceptable. As a result, returning WWI veterans preferred their army-issued wristwatches to their Father’s pocket-watch.
By the start of the 1920’s the younger generations were shunning the starched shirts of their fathers as well. Favoring a soft silky fabric, but these more relaxed collars looked unkept when wearing a tie.
Seeing an opportunity in the fashions of a rebellious youth jewelry designers quickly came upon a fix. Which would not only solve the messy look but also cut their losses with the disappearing collar buttons.
The Tie Clip also became popular in the 1920’s as another piece of men’s jewelry. These clips came in two styles the pinch clasp and the slide clasp.
The Pinch Clasp is made for thicker materials and has a built-in alligator clip. While the Slide clasp is for thinner materials and is made to slide across the tie holding it to the shirt.
The savvy gentleman always chose a Tie Clip that was 3/4 the width of his tie and placed it between the third and fourth button. Making sure to blouse the tie slightly before clipping it on. While making sure the clip was straight, never at an angle.
Vintage Men’s Jewelry from the Depression to Mid – Century
Yet there was a desire to show off a man’s personality and vitality in the 1930’s. Then with the Summer Olympics of 1932 visiting Los Angeles America went crazy for sports.
With an explosion of sports-inspired jewelry, such as the cuff-links to the left which hit the market. Along with other novelties of a man’s interest, from automobiles to horses.
Often confused today as pocket watch chains. The antique Keychain is more detailed, often with long bar links for sophistication as they were normally worn with Tailcoats as an evening wear accessory.
Just as the returning soldiers of World War I had popularized the wristwatch. Returning veterans of World War II popularized the ID Bracelet. With both men and women adopting the style.
A form of Identification worn on the battlefields of Europe, the ID bracelet was attached with a heavy silver chain. Soon, however, this bulky look spread to other forms of vintage men’s jewelry of the 1950’s as the big bold look was fab. A style which can be seen in many aspects of fashion during the era.
The Vintage Men’s Ring of the Early 20th Century
A symbol of status the signet ring has been a part of business and politics since the age of the Pharaohs. Once reserved for Clergy and Nobility, these rings bore the family crest of their owners. for sealing important documents with a mark in hot wax.
While this practice ended long before the 20th century, the men’s ring remained a symbol of status. Often seen to indicate fraternity membership and ranking. As well as graduation Class Rings and Military service.
The style of this Hematite Intaglio Ring on the left was highly popular during the 1920’s. As prominent men in society wore statement rings to signify their stature.
In general, the guidelines to how men wore their rings is fairly relaxed. Where the right hand is seen as the prominent hand, while the left is seen as the mental hand or the hand representing his beliefs. As far as the finger of choice, the small fourth finger was normally the first choice. Of course, there was the Hollywood effect here, but the main reason is that it is the least used finger of the hand.
The ring finger as it is often called has been reserved for the wedding band since the time of the Greek Empire. So this finger was rarely used for any other propose and the middle finger normally isn’t used, as a ring might interfere with manual tasks.
While the index finger was generally accepted as the position to wear fraternal or class rings. Although it is uncommon today, the thumb was actually a popular ring finger for influential men or a man of wealth during the era.