To be obvious, it’s the wristwatch… at least that’s what advertisers tend to show, but what happened to all the cool men’s jewelry? All those little details that showed who you were, be it a fastidious fop or an on the ball details man. The wristwatch is one detail, yes, yet it’s not the first thing people see. In fact, it’s hard to see unless you are going out of your way to show it off. So here are a few other options when it comes to the man who doesn’t have the time to pull back his shirt sleeve every time he reaches out to shake hands.
THE COLLAR BAR
The collar bar was a common staple in a man’s dresser drawer - a piece of metal with a clip at either end. You would put your tie on, place the bar under the tie, clipping the ends to the collar points to give the tie a much needed lift. It could be gaudy and gold or subtle and silver, and it was a detail that accentuated personality along with wardrobe. They would look like swords, guns, anything, even a plain shiny bar, and when it was the right collar bar it didn’t look like you were wearing too much, it just looked like you were you.
THE TIE BAR
The tie bar was that thing that kept your tie from flapping in the wind or falling out of your jacket. It clipped your tie to your shirt. When you are on your way to Budapest fighting off that spy on the roof of a train, the last thing you need is your tie getting in the way. Once standard issue and seen on men throughout the office, now they are an obscure object that some notice a little too much if paired with modern ties… perhaps it’s because today’s ties just don’t take well to tie bars. They were for a time when ties were narrower and the materials were not as thick. Back then, ties could get caught up in the wind, but today’s ties are so thick that they are akin to wearing a piece of cardboard down the front of your chest.
THE WATCH CHAIN
The watch chain could be hung from the lapel button hole, falling into your chest pocket, connected to a belt loop with the chain leading to the pants pocket, or draped across your vest pockets in a myriad of manners. It was your connection to time and one of the staples in a man’s wardrobe that disappeared with the invention of the men’s wristwatch. Ads were all over magazines and jewelers carried any type of chain you could imagine, from ones that looked like steel cables to ones that looked like braided gold. Some men even went without the chain and opted for a simple shoestring. Nothing like having your wrist free and knowing your watch is securely fastened to some part of your suit. Train conductors had steel chains and bankers had gold. It was a status symbol more noticeable than any wristwatch could ever be.
THE SIGNET RING
The signet ring keeps you in the know when you are trying to determine if you are talking to an ally or an enemy. Crests of companies, regiments, clubs, societies, families, and fraternities, they have long been used to weed out those that did not belong and leave imprints in wax to seal messages. A subtle defining item that says loud and proud ‘I am a Freemason,’ and it doesn’t wear out like the silk-screened logo on a t-shirt. Whether you are a Knight Templar or an Eagle Scout, that emblem on your ring can someday get you that airline seat upgrade for which you’ve always been hoping.
All of the above are little details that can easily be forsaken, though should never be dismissed. Mixing and matching fabrics is nice when putting on a jacket and tie, but truly going the extra inch and adding the details is what makes the well dressed stand out from the dressed. There are men hunting for just the right wristwatch and there is no shame in having the right wristwatch, but it’s one thing that has to be pulled out to be displayed and once put back under the cuff, it’s something you have to brag about in order to give it attention. The items above are out in the open and say nothing about you other than that you truly do have style and don’t need to continuously adjust your tie in order to show it off.
For good measure... a pic of me wearing a trusty vintage collar bar