Men Like It Haute

Women traditionally have dominated consumption of accessories in the U.S. market, more likely than men to buy their own fashion items to personalize their styles and look their best. But the world of personal accessories is changing, as men’s perception of fashion has changed. Men are more interested in keeping their appearance in line with the latest fashion trends.

Euromonitor International luxury goods research cites the significant growth of men’s accessories in product categories from bags and small leather goods to footwear and timepieces, all up from a quarter to more than 50% over a five-year period (2009-2014). CPC Strategy, a retail focused search agency, noted in a report earlier this year that the menswear market is growing at a faster rate than women’s fashion, citing the latest data gathered by IBIS World that logged men’s average annual sales growth in a five-year span at 17.4%.

Ayako Homma, senior analyst at Euromonitor International, expects male consumers to be a key driver for overall personal accessories sales in the U.S. She attributes men’s growing inclination to buy stylish accessories to greater availability, changing styles at work, demographic shifts, and new societal norms on grooming. “Compared to the saturated and competitive nature of women’s accessories, men’s accessories is still small and has considerable room for growth. Manufacturers are expanding their product lines in men’s clothing and accessories to capture the growing menswear market.”

Men have more freedom to decide what to wear to the office and other social settings and this trend continues to impact retail sales of men’s personal accessories. Moreover, 75 million people, nearly a quarter of the U.S. population are millennials (age 18-34) and millennial men are key consumers for accessories. “As millennials enter the workforce and increase their purchasing power, they spend greater amounts of money on clothing and accessories,” says Homma. “These young men care about their personal appearance and style as their lifestyles include snapping selfies and sharing them through social media.”

Jonathan Goodman Cohen for the men’s jewelry manufacturer IB Goodman, Newport, Kentucky hails jewelry an easy way for men to experiment with style.

Tapping Trends
Men’s fashion blogs are cited a big part of the shift in men’s style, cites CPC Strategy, with the newest crop of bloggers selfie-savvy dapper dandies like TheGentlemanBlogger, YourMirrorStyle, OfftheCuff, and Street Etiquette.

Among the popular men’s jewelry buzzed about online include cuff bracelets; gem bead bracelets and necklaces; signet style rings with symbols and stone inlay; earrings, particularly designs that dangle; playful pins; medals/medallions; Bohemian ‘70s chains; and body piercings. Layering and stacking is encouraged, from different styles and lengths of necklaces to a bevy of bracelet types, and rings across fingers. Mixing design elements/materials also prevails.

“Bracelets are bestsellers with men today and the reason we’ve focused a large portion of our selection in this category,” tells Alisa Bunger, director of sales for the Dallas-based Prime Art & Jewel and its men’s brand Ethos. “Bracelets tend not to be overly flashy or distracting, which appeals to the millennial man, our target customer. Dog tags are the other category that is doing well as it allows for a gift-giver to include a personal message through engraving.” She cites quality and affordability key attributes for self-purchasing men and gift-giving women.

Scott Rauch, president of SHR Jewelry Group, a division of SDC Designs in New York and its men’s brand Esquire, concurs that bracelets are still the leading category, particularly unusual beads like lapis, sodalite, matte hematite, and meteorite, as well as leather, and nylon cord in different colors. He says the use of color, be it through gem, ion plated metal, leather, or cord is in demand, with blue a top hue. He also hails earrings a hot category, citing success in the Esquire line with kite shapes.

In contemporary metals, styles that incorporate leather, wood, and gemstones are favorites, says Cora Lee Colaizzi, director of marketing and catalogs and senior merchandiser Quality Gold, Fairfield, Ohio, with Chisel and Edward Mirell men’s brands. “Younger men are wearing leather wrap bracelets and stretch bracelets with beads made of black agate, lava rock, and other naturally occurring materials. They’re also getting into the layering trend, and using multiple thicknesses and metal colors, as well as textures and materials.”

Alternative metals continue to be popular because their affordability allows men to curate a daily style that won’t break the bank, tells Cohen. “Natural stones like turquoise and tiger’s eye are trending because they’re unique and add color, interest and character. Style in the current landscape is all about self-expression. Personalized signet rings, symbolic pendants on chain, and real objects made wearable are current translations. Men want jewelry that speaks to their identity, in good quality and designed to be comfortable, functional and durable.”

Colaizzi says 14K gold link bracelets traditionally worn by men have performed well this year. “Yellow gold remains strong and these styles are staples for most stores working to build a higher-end men’s assortment.” And all concur that traditional accessories remain on the radar of dapper dandies, including cuff links, tie bars and lapel pins as must-have style staples in any guy’s wardrobe.