Are Charm Necklaces the New Ties?

BRYANT SIMMONS first noticed men wearing necklaces adorned with childlike charms or upbeat beads this summer. A stylist at New York boutique Kirna Zabête, he suddenly saw them on the napes of customers, subway commuters and young trendsetters all across town (not to mention Instagram). So after a bit of research, he decided to buy a rainbow-hued version from the label Anni Lu.

“I ended up wearing it with everything. It’s that bit of color and fun that I needed,” he said, noting that it makes simple T-shirts more playful and lends “stuffy” work clothes some personality. He turned to the outfit-energizing accessory “a lot more than I thought I would.”

A charm necklace is a stylish statement that fits into a Zoom frame.

Mr. Simmons is in good company. Celebrities like Justin Bieber, Harry Styles, Pete Davidson and Jaden Smith have all been spotted in similar styles. According to data culled from the global shopping platform Lyst, cheerful charm necklaces were the “hottest” men’s jewelry trend this summer, with key search terms like “colorful,” “beaded” and “rainbow” leading the way. Versions of the accessory run the gamut, from a $3,390 enamel-flower model by luxury brand Bottega Veneta to a $20 mushroom-and-pearl necklace available at mass retailer Urban Outfitters.

DIY DELIGHT Make Your Own Necklace, $110 to $290,

“It has a sense of humor about it, it feels very lighthearted, it’s not something that takes itself seriously,” said Susan Korn, founder of the cult accessory label Susan Alexandra, which offers multiple charm necklaces. Throughout lockdown Ms. Korn saw strong sales. A big factor: the DIY craft movement fueled by the listless hours Americans spent at home. Her bestselling product, she said, was a “Bead Box” that let people make their own necklaces at home. Now that most Americans are out and about, she credits her necklaces’ continued popularity to post-lockdown energy, particularly men’s newfound willingness to experiment with fashion. “It’s the Harry Styles effect,” she said. “Everybody’s dressing so fluidly.”

Nearly every ancient civilization—the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians—wore charm jewelry as part of social or religious ceremonies. The charms’ purposes were manifold: to honor an ancestor, to mark someone as part of a certain tribe, to indicate social class. More recently, Queen Victoria popularized charm bracelets, which she happily jangled on her own wrist and gave as gifts.

Today, charm necklaces represent the intersection of several fashion trends: They align with Gen Z’s defiance of traditional gender roles and its ongoing revival of Y2K aesthetics. They function as the sort of theatrical, celebratory look that men of all ages have adopted on re-entering society after a year spent cooped up. And for those still conducting business through screens, they make an eye-catching statement that fits perfectly into a Zoom frame.

Though he is sporting his necklace so often now, Mr. Simmons predicts the trend will have a short shelf life. “I think it’ll go into fall—you can wear it with a flannel or a sweater,” he said. “But it’ll be played out by next summer.” Enjoy these baubles while you can. They represent a cheeky rebelliousness in a time of turmoil and—a key advantage as ephemeral trends go—make a big impact despite their small size. When it comes to men’s fashion statements, a charm necklace is not as extreme a commitment as, say, a skirt, Mr. Simmons said. “It’s something any dude can wear.”

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