Luxury male accessories are traditionally tie clips, cufflinks and belt buckles, or for those with a more edgy look, gothic rings or rapper-inspired chains. But for China’s growing segment of young, fashion-fluent men, those style conventions are not enough. Although in the West Millennials and Gen Zers associate diamonds with a romantic notion such as a proposal or marriage, Chinese consumers do not. In China the cultural detachment allows more young men to buy diamonds as a fashion statement instead.
On social media, a growing number of young Chinese men are sharing their experimental and gender-fluid approaches to jewelry. The hashtag #MenJewelry (男士珠宝) has more than 30,000 posts on Xiaohongshu, a lifestyle platform, where male fashion Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) or influencers’, explain their tips & tricks on navigating luxury’s limited offers of men’s adornments.
Restricted by choices, many Chinese men are now buying women’s luxury jewelry with gender-neutral designs. “Timeless design [in men’s and women’s collections] from Bulgari, Cartier, and Van Cleef & Arpels are the safe choices for the luxury-loving crowd,” says Shark, a KOL who runs the men’s style Bilibili account. While the desire to wear unisex jewels signals a search for male style upgrades, the gender-fluid trend might also come from male Chinese pop stars increasingly wearing dressy jewelry on-screen, helping audiences to accept adventurous male styles.
China’s rising interest in male jewelry did not go unnoticed by the jewelry world’s biggest names. Luxury houses like Bvlgari, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany have been testing the waters by featuring Chinese male popstars in their jewelry campaigns to promote the unisex use of their most iconic designs. So, how can other luxury brands cash in on this burgeoning male jewelry market? Step one would be to recognize the industry’s long-standing male accessory stereotypes, and then destigmatizing them.
Photo: Chinese KOL's visiting Antwerp's Diamond Industry 2019 (courtesy AWDC)