The year is 1969. Rural New York State. Close to half a million people are descending on a small town that neither wants them, nor can handle the swarm of young people with their tie-dyed clothing and their free love ideology. It is Woodstock. The headliner is Jimi Hendrix. When he finally took to the stage at 8am on Monday morning with his upside down white Fender Stratocaster, his performance was one of the most iconic of the 20th century. This performance echoes down through the decades, and strange as it may sound, it even influences men’s jewellery Australia.
You’ve probably seen Jimmy Hendrix before. Look a little closer. His fingers are bedecked with rings, each unique in its own way; gold, silver, subtle, ostentatious, plain, bejewelled… There is a boldness, a certain je ne sais quoi that flies in the face of societal norms. These days, you wouldn’t look twice, but it was the Lords of the Ring like Hendrix and other iconic figures of the 1960s who pioneered male jewellery as a fashion item.
Before this, men really only wore wedding rings, which would be as unassuming and plain as physically possible. And as strange it may sound, the wearing of a wedding ring really only kicked off during WWII, as soldiers longed for a physical memento for their loved one. "The mid-20th Century is when it becomes mainstream," says Rachel Church, a curator in metalwork at the V&A in London. "That's when men started to be expected to wear wedding rings, and nowadays when you hear men don't want to wear them you think that it's a bit odd."
Gone are the days when a ring as a fashion accessory was worn solely on female fingers. Whilst in 2021 it may not raise eyebrows like it did in the 1960s, fitting out your fingers still does something profound. It communicates who you are and how you would like to be understood by the people you meet. When thinking about men’s jewellery Australia, there are a few categories which crop up. These are purely broad brush strokes, and within each group exists an array of individuals who use jewellery to personalise their aesthetic. But for a lo-res picture, let’s take a look at a few.
1. The Wayfarer
The Wayfarer is the man who seems like a seasoned traveller, a man who has seen things beyond his years, and is wise to the ways of the world. He is an old soul. His rings are eclectic with no semblance of consistency or uniformity. It is almost as though he has collected them in his travels or been given them as a token of thanks for a noble deed. His rings could be made of anything; gold, tungsten, leather, tightly wound reed… A ring worn on the thumb won’t do any harm either. Whatever they are, they tend to stay on, and the Wayfarer cherishes each one individually. If we could offer a little tip: avoid overloading your fingers. Understatement is, after all, the mark of wisdom.
2. The Hectic
The Hectic is the man whose rings wouldn’t look out of place on the fingers of a villain in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. His rings will probably feature the heads of animals (think wolves, bats, snakes and so on), skulls, or the tooth of an enemy, long since slain. The hectic will have a fondness for Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold and any other band that tours with a pyrotechnic expert. Their rings can be rotated around (playing the solo to Master of Puppets can be hard with heavy fingers!), and they may have a wide range of rings ready to be summoned for any dark purpose. This look tends to work well if you compliment the more gnarly rings with something plain and unassuming. Borrowing from the Legendary Spinal Tap, not every amplifier has to be turned up to eleven.
3. The Craftsman
The craftsman is the man who works with his hands, or in some designing capacity. He errs towards rings that have a rough hewn handmade aesthetic to them, and avoids the mechanical perfection that characterises most rings. He will prefer rings that are broad, industrial and masculine more than anything subtle or colourful. If it were to get chipped or scratched, this only makes it better for the Craftsman. He is a man who avoids the flashy or the gaudy, and prefers to shoot from the hip. Make sure you have a good mental image of the Craftsman’s ring. It is probably the only ring he wears, and he will end up taking it off frequently for work or sport. When he inevitably loses it, you can save the day by finding a look-alike.
4. The Gentleman
Far from the Hendrix-esque glamour which raised the middle finger to the man, the right ring can actually add to a sense of decorum, a quiet dignity. The Gentleman will wear something which isn’t immediately noticed, but is elegant and streamlined. There is something measured and considered about the Gentleman. He is as subtle as the ring which sits on his finger. It paradoxically tells you nothing, but everything at the same time.
Whether you are the Wayfear, the Gentleman, the Craftsman, or the Hectic, you are (in your own way) a Lord of the Ring. And while men’s jewellery Australia has diversified since the 1960s when those iconic figures wore iconic rings on their iconic fingers, one thing has remained constant; what you wear and how you wear it shapes the first impression you make. If you sort your ring game, you’re pulling the strings. Getting the little things right goes a long way.
Here’s to you, fellow Lord of the Ring.