Guys are getting flashier when it comes to accessorizing. A slew of Long Island brands and businesses are feeling a new thirst from men who want to amp up their individuality by way of eye-catching accessories such as lapel pins, cuff links and jewelry.
Once the bastion of celebrities and athletes, nowadays, regular guys are seemingly more at ease with gilding the lily whether they’re strutting out in colorful bouquets pinned to their jackets or rocking a stack of gold and pearl bracelets on their arm.
Don’t call it peacocking; it’s a burgeoning trend, says Karen Giberson, the president and CEO of the Accessories Council, a New York-based trade organization. “Men are getting more and more comfortable with fashionable styles,” she says. “There are more choices than ever before from logo’d sunglasses, status socks, tech items and lots and lots of jewelry.”
To our pleasant surprise, there are several Long Islanders who are producing charming menswear accessories. Have a look at what they have in store.
The queen of cuff links
Jan Leslie, 56, of Sands Point, got bitten by the bug for silversmithing back when she was a kid at a creative arts camp in Glen Cove and it stuck. It was 1990 when she ceased working in the crowded woman’s field, realizing there was an untapped market in the men’s department.
“I found this brand-new niche in men’s and I felt I could learn from it,” she says, recalling that her friends from college were just starting to work and were wearing inexpensive cuff links or an heirloom or something left over from prom. “I thought ‘Oh my God, I can make things that are reasonable and look good instead of those plain, shiny knot cuff links.’ And I just let loose and started making fun, quirky things and experimenting with enamels and sterling.”
Today, her eponymous company of which she is the president and CEO, offers thousands of imaginative cuff links that go far beyond the same-old, same-old and include everything from bumblebees to moving puzzle cubes to flying pigs to sharks with jaws that chomp.
As for their appeal, “Men are willing to take risks and have fun these days,” says Leslie who is experiencing a boom she explains, because of all the backed-up events and weddings. “Basically, someone will buy them a gift, they get compliments and that’s it. All of a sudden, they have something that makes them feel good and it’s an understated way to stand out. When you get noticed in a positive way with such a small elegant detail that doesn’t scream, well that’s what cuff links are supposed to do.”
After all these years, Leslie still relishes coming up with new ideas for cuff links and does drawings for designs. “I make myself laugh,” she admits, describing her pigs in blanket cuff links (yes, pigs wearing blankets) and a current genie and a bottle lantern style she is working on. And yes, they are popular. Leslie estimates the company sells more than 100,000 pairs a year.
Jan Leslie cuff links and the company’s sister line Link Up sell for $95 to $1,295 (many pairs are made with precious metals and stones) and are available at major department stores, Mitchell’s in Huntington and janleslie.com.
Flower power: Fleur’d Pins
Also feeling men’s hankering for something that sets them apart is Andrew Werner, 34, of Roslyn who works as a fashion photographer and owns handcrafted boutonniere business, Fleur’d Pins. “I came up with the idea in 2015 when, as a photographer, I was shooting so many events and for men was seeing nothing special about their outfits. I wanted to find a way to make people stand out in the right ways. I couldn’t find it so I made it,” he says of his dozens of styles of lapel flowers in imported leathers, cashmere, exotic skins and custom silks that he believes work as beautifully on a tuxedo as they do on a jean jacket.
Lately, he says, “I’m seeing an uptick in business. Everybody wants to go out and celebrate and accessorize. Guys these days are more inclined to express themselves through fashion and wearing something like Fleur’d Pins is bound to capture attention and compliments. At the end of the day, I want men to look as good as they feel inside and have something that reflects their personal style.”
The pins have caught the eye of luminaries such as Tom Hanks, Don Lemon and Billy Porter who have been spotted in Fleur’d Pins. And back in December, HBO tapped Werner to create 150 custom Fleurs in purple leather, suede and cashmere to pay tribute to the iconic style of Willie Garson, the beloved “Sex and the City” character Stanford Blatch, who died during the filming of the show’s next iterations “And Just Like That.” They also commissioned seven unique Fleurs for the cast of the show — men and women.
Bling time: Men’s jewelry is big
Dudes wearing jewelry is far from new, but some celebs like Harry Styles, Rocky A$AP and even Pete Davidson have challenged preconceived norms and the trend is trickling down to the mainstream.
“When I started my business 25-years ago, 95% of men said they would absolutely not wear jewelry other than a ring and a watch,” says Catherine Zadeh, 60, founder and designer of high-end jewelry brand ZadehNY that operates a store in Southampton.
Zadeh says she saw a shift about 10 years ago with a greater acceptance of jewelry by men, but, “now the trend has really accelerated and ‘gender neutral’ is the new word out there. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought CEO’s from Goldman Sachs would make an appointment to see my jewelry. Men are looking to wear diamonds on their bracelets — this was not conceivable years ago. Pearls now can be masculine — it’s a detail and adds a vulnerable side to a man, and makes them more approachable and cooler.”
Zadeh, who says her husband, David is her muse (at first he shunned jewelry, today he wears four bracelets at a time) offers a wide range of baubles for men including textural, artful bracelet stacks that are comprised of luxury metals, precious gem stones, Italian leather and parachute cord. Maybe, she theorizes, “men are open to it because women are open to it.”
But she adds, baby steps are required for some. “I always start with men who are reticent to wear jewelry with a bracelet made of a very thin cord and I tell them, ‘this is going to spice up your life.’ It’s so cool and chic that men become more confident and say, ‘you know I’m ready to add another one.’” Then come the compliments explains Zadeh. “People make comments and it gives men a lift in their game.”
ZadehNY jewelry store is located at 94 Main Street, Southampton; zadehny.com.
At Kravit Jewelers in Oceanside, co-owner and jewelry designer Idayne Kaye says she saw an increase in men’s jewelry purchases slightly before the pandemic and then even more so afterward.
“Men are soaring into jewelry these days. They’re sort of reflecting on their lives and who they want to be. This is just a different era for self-expression,” she says. Kaye explains that women used to be the primary purchasers of jewelry gifts for men, “but now they’re buying their own jewelry as a reward for hard work as well as for a personal symbolic meaning.”
Those purchases, says Kaye, include a guy’s “push present” — the gift traditionally presented to a mom after she has given birth. The designer says she’s seeing new interest in yellow gold and even diamond tennis bracelets from men, and that revved up excitement over accessorizing with jewelry spans the decades from teenagers to mature types.
One such teen is her own son, Ty Yanowitch, 18, who has taken to sporting a yellow gold and pearl bracelet these days. Yanowitch says, “There are a lot of boys wearing pearls on Tik Tok and social media — the rappers, the athletes. “I think they’re unisex though I’m pretty sure this piece was meant for a girl,” he says of the bracelet he currently wears which was designed by his grandfather. “To me, it doesn’t seem feminine at all, though it really depends on how you wear it. And every time I do, I get compliments.”
Kravit Jewelers is located 3187 Long Beach Rd, Oceanside; kravitjewelers.com.
Not every guy wants to flaunt his fun, fashionable side, even though he has one. This may be the case for Scott Andersen, 50, of Huntington, vice president of sales for a financial technology company. While his bespoke suits are definitely snazzy, it’s the jacket linings that tell a story about Andersen. Some pop with oversized colorful flowers while others feature strong, graphic prints.
“I think you can express yourself through your wardrobe,” says Andersen. “Anyone can throw on a blue blazer, but personality can shine through the clothing you wear.”
He doesn’t always flash the inside of his jackets but when he does he gets comments, he says, such as, “’Wow, that’s so cool, I would never have thought to do something like that.’ It’s positive affirmation.”
His suits are designed by Ed Dennehy, a custom suit maker who sees men by appointment at his Mad Men barber shops in Williston Park and Wantagh. Dennehy has watched men’s taste evolve over the 10 years he’s been a bespoke tailor. At first, he says, guys were, “shying away” from crazy linings, and the few that went wild were outliers. Today, he offers dozens of dazzling lining designs including skulls, airplanes, martini glasses and vivid paisleys. He says, “Now everybody wants something special. Nobody wants their suit to be basic on the inside.”