Rules of Adornment

I don’t own a lot of jewelry as a general rule (at least, not yet). It wasn’t something that I was overly confident in experimenting with in high school outside of a simple silver ring I used to wear on my pointer finger, so when I finally started to explore and look at what I liked to wear (and who I wanted to dress like), it was hard to find pieces that spoke to me within a college student’s budget. And, obviously, I didn’t want the typical “dive bar biker on route 66” look. For some reason it just doesn’t quite fit.

The price of having expensive taste I guess. Or just being high maintenance.

For this post I intend to go over the two most fundamental rules of adornment (no, not like those other menswear blogs you’ve seen online), and then provide a brief overview of three brands that I’ve fallen in love with over the past year. Dime and Regal, Logan Hollowell and Miansai are all fabulous jewelry makers in their own right, but they all have an essence and power to them that I think we should celebrate.

In complete honesty several influencers served as, well, influences for this post and I’ll sprinkle their pictures in as we go through, and include links to the jewelry they’re wearing. First up, Joel Moore-Hagan (@moorehisstyle), a NYC-based influencer who focuses on “blurring the lines between womenswear and menswear”. Something that this blog sees eye-to-eye with.

Rule #1: Be Aware

I don’t believe that cultural appropriation is always a bad thing. Certainly there is a dark side that’s gotten more and more visible during the age of cell phones and social media (for good reason), but we wouldn’t have half the things that we do without borrowing from other cultures. Japanese denim, democratic discourse and even New York pizza, though if I’m being honest Chicago deep dish will always hold my heart.

Now this post is not in defense of mindless, insensitive cultural appropriation. What has happened in the past must be acknowledged and understood, but there’s nothing wrong with doing it with intention and respect. Twerking is not purely the domain of West African cultures, cable-knit sweaters are not the property of Scandinavian fishermen and coffee is so widespread that many people forget that it’s history is many hundreds of years old. Sharing and celebrating different cultures respectfully is the key.

In full disclosure, most of the points that I’ve made above come from a post on The Atlantic, linked here, about the “Do’s and Don’ts of Cultural Appropriation”.

Rihanna at the 2015 Met Gala, China: Through the Looking Glass (taken from The Atlantic, designed by Guo Pei)

Not just being aware of the colors and the styles that we use in putting together a good outfit, but rather being aware of the subtle nuances and history of the jewelry that we own. Rings, earrings, necklaces, patterns, colors and trends all come from somewhere and, chances are, they come from a culture who places heavy significance on the piece in question. If we’re going to wear that, we need to pay attention and respect those people groups.

As I’ve said above, this is not something that we need to delve into with every single gold band that we chose to put on our hands or around our neck, but for popular icons and iconography which have a definable and substantial significance to a people group to which we might not belong, we owe it to them to at least do our research. It shows respect and places value on those cultures which might be vastly different than our own. And really, what’s more masculine than showing that we can think for ourselves?

I mean come on. No one ever said being masculine was easy did they?

Rule #2: There Are No Other Rules

It should also come as no surprise that I like to start fires with people who don’t really see the world the same way as I do. Maybe “fires” isn’t the right term, but rather “heated discussions”. Regardless, I will continue to exist in order for men (and others) to question the way that they’ve been raised since the day of their birth. In a recent example of my constant need to upset old conservative men, I wore a gold bar necklace over an incredibly expensive cashmere sweater to the wedding of one of my best friends. During the course of events I was approached by one of the bride’s many uncles and asked why I was wearing “a girl’s necklace and sweater” to the wedding. Needless to say, my response was… influenced by the liberal ingestion of alcohol.

“How about we discuss your pants that aren’t fitted properly and leave my outfit out of this, ok?

Nathaniel, who takes no critiques about his clothing or jewelry choices

Was it uncalled for? Potentially. Was it valid? Absolutely. If I’m wearing something to an event that makes me feel like I could walk into Hell and charm my way out of eternal damnation, other people shouldn’t feel the need to come up and criticize it. There are no “rules” or “gender” for pieces of metal or plastic that we choose to put around our necks or fingers. There is no guidebook for what makes someone “a man” based on what they choose to adorn themselves with, and the judgement that men often fall under based around these rules are childish and ridiculous. If this post is nothing else, I hope it’s encouragement to explore what makes you feel beautiful and to ignore the others.

Long story short: if it makes you confident and you’re comfortable in it, you should wear it. Now, let’s take a look at a few of my favorite places around Grand Rapids (and in general) that you should explore for some inspiration, shall we?

1.) Dime and Regal

Nestled right in the heart of Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Street corridor, Dime and Regal has been a powerhouse and cornerstone of jewelry and adornment in Grand Rapids since they opened their first shop in 2017. The owners Samantha and Courtney are both designers in their own right and dreamed up a store which functions as both a showroom for area designers (known as “makers” on the D+R website) but also as a space which aims to break down the “starving artist” title that so often gets put onto starting artists.

Dime and Regal‘s Visionary Owners, Courtney Jones and Samantha McIntosh inside their stunning showroom

All the makers and artists that Dime and Regal represents are women, and they use their brick-and-mortar location to showcase the talents and skills of these metalsmiths. Before the dive into some beautiful pieces, I should mention that this is one of my favorite stores in Grand Rapids because of the exclusion of the masculine. It’s elegant, sophisticated and clean without the needless hustle and bustle of traditional men’s adornment. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the feminine inside all of us, right?

2.) Logan Hollowell:

Speaking of celebrating the femininity inside us, the next brand that I want to cover is called Logan Hollowell. Based out of Los Angeles, this brand creates their jewelry using recycled gold and conflict-free diamonds and other gemstones. Named after it’s founder, Logan Hollowell who grew up in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, she created the brand to celebrate women around the world and to create positive energy and relationships between her clientele and the universe. Her pieces invoke feelings of peace, serenity and wholesomeness while drawing inspiration from cultures around the world, using their designs and motifs in order to elevate her client’s lives and celebrate the feminine divine inside them. That’s something we all need, regardless of gender.

Logan Hollowell, using the same careful eye that she uses to design her jewelry to maintain her storefront in Los Angeles

While I said in one of the previous sections that I don’t approve of other culture’s symbolism and religious aesthetics being used as decoration, Logan Hollowell treads that line with care and distinction. Many of the motifs she uses are from Egyptian mythology or from other world religions, yet she uses these images to celebrate the educate her customers, which is always something that makes brands stand out to me.

3.) Miansai:

A bit of a shift, but now I want to write about men’s jewelry that’s made by men. Both of the brands above challenge the stereotype of masculinity by focusing on the feminine, but this brand, started by Michael Saiger in his college dorm, focuses on the gentle, confident masculinity that is so lacking in the world. Where Dime and Regal showcases multiple styles and aesthetics, and Logan Hollowell seeks to celebrate the divine feminine, Miansai creates clean and modern silhouettes to elevate the modern man.

Miansai’s store in Venice Beach, with furniture designed by Analog Modern

Miansai focuses on more than just jewelry, cultivating lifestyle pieces that can be worn or used to accentuate an outfit with a near-effortless flair. While it’s true that “masculine” pieces of jewelry often rely on overly-built and “tough” looking pieces, nothing I’ve seen from Miansai falls into that category. Rather than continuing the tradition of “biker rings and chains”, they endeavor to show us that less is always more.

Now I get it. The first brand that I covered is more a retail space rather than a specific person designing the pieces, but there’s something to be said for the atmosphere of a passionate business. Dime and Regal produce a lot of the product that is displayed on their shelves and in their cases, but what makes them special is the heart and intention of the makers and the employees. In the same way that Logan Hollowell makes jewelry to celebrate the feminine and Miansai fabricates jewelry to elevate the modern man, Dime and Regal was the stepping stone into my jewelry journey. It’s important to celebrate and support the businesses that are local to us, especially through the holidays.

I think that this long post (thanks for reading this far!) can be summarized into two rather simple questions. The first calls back the first rule of adornment and asks us to analyze whether or not we’re offending people groups in wearing a certain piece. The second is whether or not we feel like a badass when we walk outside wearing it. If the answer is yes, then square your shoulders and strut, queen. Life is yours to take. You might as well be dressed for the part.

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