Where’s Poppa’s Jewelry?

Back when she was still creating women?s jewelry, designer Linda Hesh made a surprising observation. ?I noticed that a lot of men responded to my women?s line. It occurred to me that men themselves didn?t have much to choose from.? Hesh set about changing that situation, and for the last four years, she?s been designing attractive pieces exclusively for men.

?Once I got started, I decided not to use commercial findings,? Hesh says. ?It became like a piece of sculpture for me?I really got into it.? Her line includes money clips, cufflinks, tuxedo studs, and key rings, mostly in sterling silver. ?My line is all sort of amusing and fun, so sterling silver makes sense, rather than gold.?

When it comes to jewelry, ?amusing and fun? may be the way to a man?s heart. Andrew Ross Goldstein, a designer of men?s jewelry for Zina Sterling Silver in Beverly Hills, Calif., says cufflinks?especially the more whimsical varieties?allow men who otherwise dress very conservatively to add a touch of flair or a dash of color to their traditional business attire. He maintains that cufflinks and bracelets are the only real constants in men?s jewelry. Why? ?They?re the things that women associate with jewelry,? he says, adding that women still buy more men?s jewelry items than men do.

At Asprey & Garrard in New York City, cufflinks are a strongly developing category, says spokeswoman Colleen Caslin. She notes that men differentiate themselves by their accessories, whether they?re dressing up or dressing down. ?Men are looking for something whimsical or unusual?in a ?suit? environment, how something pops from the ordinary,? she says.

Men and metal. Men like white metals and are especially fond of sterling silver items from John Hardy and David Yurman, says Laurie Harris of Tapper?s Jewelry in West Bloomfield, Mich. ?Men like a clean look,? Harris says. ?They like something they can work in, that feels comfortable to them?something they can wear all the time.?

John Hardy has created a new men?s bracelet that may be a natural for Father?s Day. His new design combines fashion with two other hot trends: golf and health. The new bracelet is silver on the outside and copper on the inside. (For the uninitiated, copper golf bracelets?a common accessory in golf pro shops and on golf Web sites?are purported to have therapeutic benefits for people with arthritis and rheumatism.)

?Women just jump on it,? Hardy says, noting that it may be the perfect gift for a woman to buy for her golfer father-in-law. ?If he?s cool in his heart, he can hold it up and say, ?It?s a golf bracelet.? ?

The popularity of men?s bracelets extends beyond the golf course. ?I see lots more bracelets out there,? says Peter Holleran, accessories editor of GQ magazine. ?Very slim, masculine ones that a creative guy could wear to work?an architect, someone in advertising, etc. A banker couldn?t.?

Holleran says men?s jewelry has changed over the past few years, a phenomenon reflected in the pages of his magazine. ?GQ used to shoot very classic [men?s jewelry],? he says. ?Now we show very architectural?Gucci, sterling silver, black onyx, etc. It?s statement-making, avant garde?it ?pops? a little more.?

Diana Shiel of the Silver Information Center says men?s jewelry styles range from conservative to more artistic. She says men in traditional professions are more likely to wear their silver jewelry on the weekends, while men who wear less conservative clothing on the job wear theirs to work. ?But the artistic style doesn?t scream gaudy,? Shiel says. ?It?s understated?more personal than traditional. It says, ?I?m hip, I?m with it, I know what?s fashionable.? ?

Watchword. Watches are likely to share the stage with bracelets and cufflinks for top Father?s Day honors, and it may not matter if Dad already has one. ?Watches have become for men what earrings are for women,? says Harris. ?A man today might own three, four, or five watches. It?s the main thing we sell to men.?

Caslin agrees that watches have become a hot men?s item. ?There?s a renewed interest in sports watches and dress watches,? she says, noting that Asprey & Garrard has seen a double-digit increase in its watch sales.

Apt accessories. Of course, some men still think one watch is enough, others will always believe that bracelets are for sissies, and still others would sooner wear cement shoes than French cuffs. But their case isn?t hopeless. There may be a place in their hearts?or at least on their desks?for silver accessories. Shiel cites travel accessories (such as compasses), desk accessories (including rulers and memo holders), and novelties (such as silver pens) as apt items for Father?s Day gift giving. ?Sterling desk accessories and novelties sell well,? she says. ?They?re bought by women for men, and now there?s a strong market in men-to-men.?

Shiel also cites the return of the silver belt buckle as an up-and-coming trend. ?A silver buckle says a lot about a person?that you have arrived.? Money clips are another popular item for men. ?They?re selling well,? says Shiel, but she isn?t sure men actually use them. ?It?s obviously a gift item.? Harris, however, believes that men really do use them. ?Men like the feel of money clips,? she says.

Other trends likely to make good Father?s Day gifts, says Shiel, are silver with leather; oxidized metals; and banded rings, often worn in multiples.

What Our Survey Shows

Men?s jewelry accounts for 5% of total annual jewelry store sales, according to a recent JCK poll, and of all men?s jewelry sold, only 5% is associated with Father?s Day. One in five jewelers held Father?s Day promotions last year, which included advertising campaigns (reported by 73.4%), sales (34.4%), special signs in store windows (18.8%), and special events (10.9%). Among jewelers who held Father?s Day promotions, fewer than half (44.9%) say they were successful. Watches were the best-selling gifts for Father?s Day, followed by rings, necklaces, tie tacks, cufflinks, tuxedo studs, fine fountain pens, and single earrings.

Promote It

No matter how many pairs of cufflinks you stock, you won?t have a successful Father?s Day if you don?t remind customers to come to the store. Patrick Murphy of Murphy Jewelers in Pottsville, Pa., has been drawing Father?s Day shoppers into his store for 15 years with his annual Ugly Tie Contest.

Aided and abetted by a local radio station, Murphy invites local celebrities to submit their most hideous ties, which he displays around the store. Customers pay a dollar to vote for their favorite ugly tie, and the money?matched by the store?is donated to various charities. Murphy has even invited national celebrities to participate and has received ties from Jay Leno, Bob Hope, Merv Griffin, and Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, among others.

The nonpareil necktie is announced the Saturday before Father?s Day, and Murphy wears it for a week. ?It?s a nice promotion?we get hundreds of ties,? he says. Murphy cites one aspect of the contest that?s the best result of all, especially for a Father?s Day promotion: ?More women are voting.?