Men’s Necklaces – Your Ultimate Guide
Whether you’re after a simple chain or enough bling to be seen from space, take a look at everything you need to get started. Learn how to choose the right chain length and how to wear dog tags without getting arrested.
From eagle talons of the Neanderthals to Jay Z’s $200,000 Cuban link chain, men’s necklaces are here to stay. Whatever necklace you’re after, choose something that tells your story. An accessory does more than just look good – it symbolises your journey, an adventure, a special moment in life or even reminds you of a time and place. What story will yours tell?
How to Wear Men’s Necklaces
- Know what story you want to tell
Ask yourself how attention-grabbing you want the necklace to be. Do you want an outrageously thick gold chain or a simple steel chain necklace and cross pendant?
- Know what you’ll wear with your necklace
Will you wear it on top of your shirt or beneath it? Knowing this helps you decide on the size and length. A chain necklace with a Thor’s Hammer pendant can add style when worn on top of a basic T-shirt, while a 2 mm gold-tone steel chain would just peek out from under a button-down shirt.
And if you’re after something lightweight in the summer, waxed cotton cord blends nicely between hanging out at the pool and going for drinks at night.
- Know what colour you need and match metals
From coloured beaded necklaces to silver- and gold-tone stainless steel, your necklace should match other colours in your outfit and other metals. If you’re also wearing bracelets, rings or a watch – and why wouldn’t you? – keep everything cohesive. And since necklaces touch the skin, make sure they’re made from nickel-free metal to avoid an allergic reaction.
- Know how many you want
This goes back to #2. It’s tricky to wear multiple necklaces under a shirt without their outline being visible. But on top of a shirt… go wild.
To layer necklaces and wear more than one, choose 2-3 necklaces of different textures and varying lengths. Wearing 3 thick, gold chain necklaces won’t look as good as 2 chains of different thickness and 1 beaded necklace with gold-tone accent beads.
Choosing the Best Size & Length of Chains
For most men’s chains, 50 cm (20”) is the average length. This falls at the collar bone between the top two buttons on a shirt and looks good inside or outside the shirt. If you’re wearing a pendant necklace, opt for 55-63 cm (22-25”) so the pendant finishes in the middle of your chest.
- 35-45 cm (14-18”) – Quite form-fitting and will be visible above your shirt.
- 50-55 cm (20-22”) – Falls at the collarbone and is the most common size for men’s necklaces. Can be worn inside or outside the shirt.
- 55-61 cm (22-24”) – Falls in the middle of the chest and looks great with a medallion, pendant, or dog tags. Can be worn inside or outside the shirt.
- 61-76 cm (24-30”) – Designed to be worn on the outside of your shirt. Looks best with a larger pendant or a thicker chain. Total attention-grabber.
If you’re only wearing a chain (and aren’t looking for a statement-making necklace), a width of 2-6 mm is a good start. When adding a pendant, make sure it fits the chain and isn’t overpowered by its thickness. If you’re looking for a chunky gold chain necklace that falls in the ‘bling’ category, shop for 12 mm or wider. Chain width and length go hand and hand, so make sure they’re proportional to each other – in other words, no 35 cm chains with 12 mm width.
- 1-6 mm – This ranges from the discreetly thin to the standard width of most men’s necklaces. Can easily go under your shirt.
- 6-10 mm – This necklace width works well for pendants and chains outside of your shirt.
- 10-X mm – You’ve entered the ‘I wore this to impress’ zone. Necklaces of more than 10 mm (the thickness of recent iPhones) are worn to garner attention.
6 Types of Necklaces for Men
Forget the costume jewellery or string of pearls your grandma rocks. Nowadays, necklaces for men come in a wide range of styles to match your story.
1. Dog Tags
Dog tags date back to the American Civil War and World War I and II. They’re typically worn as identification in case of casualty or death. During World War II, the United States Army began including religious preference, but it was limited to P for Protestant, C for Catholic or H for Jewish. Later, during the Korean War (1950-53), the letter X was added for ‘not listed’ and a Y for no religion or a choice to not list. Sorry, Jedis, you’ll have to choose X.
Soldiers traditionally wear 2 dog tags – one that stays with the body and one collected for identification and record-keeping. One tag is on the main chain and the other is attached by a smaller chain for quick removal.
Dog Tags & Engraving
Dog tag necklaces have moved from the battlefield to fashion and, while no longer used to identify a body at the morgue, still hold a degree of self-identification. Today, you can engrave dog tags with everything from a special date to a reminder to ‘Believe’ (thanks, Bieber).
If your dog tag is engraved with something personal or meaningful, you might want to wear it under your shirt… especially when headed to the office or a formal event. Otherwise, wear the necklace on the outside and get ready to start a conversation. Not sure how to personalise your engraved dog tag? Click here for engraving ideas and inspiration.
2. Chain Necklaces
Most men’s necklaces fall into this type. A chain is a strand of rings, discs or beads that interlock. While that sounds simple enough, there are countless variations and styles of chain necklaces to choose from… not to mention an array of clasp styles. You’ll want a clasp that supports the weight of the chain and fastens easily (especially if you get dressed alone).
TYPES OF CHAIN NECKLACES FOR MEN
- Cable Chain – The cable chain is the most popular type of chain necklace for men. It’s created from connecting oval links and resembles actual chain. Alone, cable chains aren’t the most statement-making necklace on the market, but they’re great for holding a cross, coin or pendant.
- Curb Chain – Curb chain necklaces are made of links that interlock when they lay flat. You’ll often see thick, chunky curb chains used in street and urban style. Cuban chains or Cuban link chains are popular variations of the curb chain necklace.
- Marine Chain/Anchor Chain – For all the sea lovers out there, the marine chain necklace is inspired by anchor chains used on ships. Each oval link has a horizontal bar across the middle and interlocks like cable chains and lies flat like curb chains.
- Figaro Chain – With its roots in Italy, the Figaro chain gets its name from the title character in The Barber of Seville, a famous Italian opera. This necklace is special because of its pattern of flat oval links. Typically, the pattern is of 1 large link followed by 2-3 shorter links. The Figaro chain necklace is a variation of the curb chain.
- Rope Chain – The rope chain consists of chain links twisted together and resembles rope. Rope chain necklaces are known for their strength and often used with pendants.
- Wheat Chain – In a wheat chain necklace, oval links are plaited together in the same direction to look like tips of wheat stalks. Wheat chains are often used with pendants.
- Ball Chain – The ball chain (bead chain) is most often used for dog tags and keychains. It consists of ball-shaped links connected with or without small breaks.
- Herringbone Chain – The herringbone chain is a flat necklace characterised by v-shaped links in alternating directions. It’s often confused with an Omega chain which has a similar design but is made from flat pieces in a curved design. Herringbone chains are not as flexible as Omegas and are prone to kinking. Both are notorious for pulling and pinching the finer hairs on your neck – a great reason for staying groomed.
- Box Chain – Square links give the box chain its name. Box chain necklaces are found in a variety of widths and great for hanging pendants.
- Snake Chain – A variation of herringbone and omega chains, snake chains are made from tightly connected plates or bands that resemble snakeskin. The result is a smooth, round zig-zag pattern. Known for being delicate, they’re great with pendants.
TYPES OF CHAIN CLASPS
- Spring Ring – Spring ring clasps operate with a spring mechanism. To use, pull back on the small lever and slide the ring (on the other end of the necklace) inside. Release the lever to close.
- Lobster Claw – Lobster claw clasps are spring-loaded closures. They open and close easily with one hand. To open, push down on the lever with your thumb. Release the lever to close. The name comes from their resemblance to an actual lobster’s claw.
- Barrel – Barrel clasps are made of 2 metal pieces screwed together to form a barrel shape.
- Fish Hook Clasps – Fish Hook clasps consist of a metal hook fastened inside a ring on the other end of the necklace.
- Magnetic Clasp – Magnetic clasps are composed of 2 magnets that join together. Super easy to use but not as secure as a lobster claw or spring-ring clasp.
3. Pendant Necklaces
This type is a catchall for any necklace with something hanging off of it – a pendant. Even a dog tag necklace is a pendant necklace.
Stylist and MUA, Cianne Denize , suggests choosing a pendant that resonates with you. “It’s going on your neck, so make sure you’re not just clicking the first necklace you see. Will you wear it under your shirt and suit? Or on top of a t-shirt? That will determine how chunky or slim the pendant can be. And keep in mind that it'll probably start a conversation. If you walk in with Thor’s hammer on your necklace… you can bet I’ll ask what’s up.”
Different pendants have different meanings and will take on yet another meaning in your story and journey.
- Feather necklaces symbolise freedom.
- Anchor necklaces represent stability, safety and hope.
- The Hamsa necklace represents the Hand of God in the Middle East.
- Ankh necklaces are symbols of the breath of life to ancient Egyptians.
- Cross necklaces have direct connections with spirituality and Christian faith.
- Coin necklaces are legendary for bringing luck and fortune to the wearer.
- Claw necklaces and jewellery are connected with protection and power to Native Americans.
- Buddha necklaces are symbols of peace, good luck and longevity.
- Viking jewellery, like Thor’s hammer necklaces, has remained fashionable throughout history and is legendary for protecting the wearer. Not to mention that Mjölnir could level mountains. We’re not sure if your pendant necklace can do that… but it would make for a great story.
4. Religious Necklaces
Men’s religious necklaces are pendant necklaces. But since this type of necklace is quite special, we’ve separated it from the pack. In the Jewish faith, necklaces with the Evil Eye, Hamsa, or Star of David are worn as pendants. In Islam, pendants representing the Koran and the name of Allah are popular options. In Christianity, you’ll see men’s cross necklaces, Saint medals and rosaries. While rosaries are traditionally used to count prayers, they’re also worn as necklaces by believers and non-believers.
TYPES OF CROSS PENDANTS
- Latin Cross – This is the most common and recognisable cross pendant. It represents the cross of the crucifixion.
- Greek Cross – Another popular cross pendant with equal arms on all sides.
- Crucifix Cross – Not to be confused with a Latin Cross, a crucifix depicts the crucifixion of Jesus and shows his body nailed to the cross.
- Crusader’s Cross – Also known as the Jerusalem Cross, this pendant consists of a large cross with smaller crosses placed at each angle
- Byzantine Cross – Also called the Russian Orthodox Cross. It originated with the Byzantine Empire and is characterised by 3 horizontal crossbeams.
- Celtic Cross – Representing eternal life, this Irish Cross is similar to a Latin Cross with a circle around the centre.
- St. Thomas Cross – Also known as Persian Cross, this cross can be traced back to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world – the Saint Thomas Christians of India.
- Gothic Cross – The Gothic Cross is associated with Gothic culture.
- Ankh Cross – Originally a symbol in ancient Egypt for life, it was adopted by the Egyptian and North African Christians (the Copts).
- Sideways Cross – A Latin Cross on its side represents that the work of Christ was finished with his death and resurrection.
5. Beaded Necklaces
The first beaded necklace dates back 110,000 years ago and was found in the Skhul Cave in Israel. While the first beaded jewellery was made from shells, you’ll now find beads made from wood, stone, metal and plastic. And you’ll still find shell necklaces at night market stalls worldwide.
There’s something about a beaded necklace that connects to the idea of relaxation and freedom. Maybe it’s the laid-back, yoga-loving island vibe that a wooden beaded necklace gives off. Or maybe it’s that most beaded necklaces are longer than average – again giving a bohemian feel to an outfit. Whatever the reason, a beaded necklace will draw attention. So get ready to tell your story.
6. Leather Necklaces
The key to wearing a leather necklace is to have it match the other leathers you’re wearing. While it’s not a set-in-stone rule, matching your necklace to your watch strap or leather belt keeps the whole outfit neat and uncluttered.
Many leather cord necklaces are designed to hold pendants or even keys. If you’re not into wearing animal hide, shop for rope necklaces made with cotton or vegan leather. Whatever you choose, this type of men’s necklace gives a relaxed feeling to your outfit. Keep that in mind when shopping for a job interview, wedding or formal event. You may be better suited for a steel necklace or chain.
Unlike stainless steel necklaces, you shouldn’t shower with a leather necklace on. Leather loses its natural oils when wet and can shrink. Another important reason to not wear your leather necklace or bracelet in the shower is discolouration. Whether it’s dyed leather or painted, long exposure to water can fade or peel the colouring.
How to Clean & Care For Necklaces
Too much dirt and dust on your necklace chain can cause it to break and lose its shine. Pendants also look better without months of fingerprints, sweat and oil caked on. Take note of the material and follow the guidelines below for general cleaning.
How to Clean Stainless Steel Necklaces & Jewellery
- Add a few drops of mild dishwashing soap to a bowl of warm water.
- Dip a soft, lint-free cloth in the water and wipe the necklace until clean.
- Rinse off any soap from your necklace.
- Dry with a clean towel and air dry. Use a polishing cloth for extra shine.
The steps above can also be used for steel rings, bracelets and pendants. Some people in our office swear by toothpaste and an old toothbrush for cleaning stainless steel necklaces. Be sure you use a non-abrasive, non-whitening toothpaste and completely rinse the necklace afterwards.
How to Clean Leather Necklaces & Bracelets
Do not submerge a leather necklace in water because it can shrink and lose its colour. Instead, use a slightly damp cloth with a drop of mild hand soap (moisturiser free) to gently wipe down the necklace. Wipe with a clean damp cloth afterwards and allow the leather necklace to air dry before wearing.
How to Clean Bead & Stone Necklaces
Keep your beaded necklace looking like new with a soft brush (an old toothbrush) and a bowl of warm water. Add a drop or two of mild dish soap and, using the brush, gently clean the beads. Use a clean damp towel to wipe off any soap and allow the necklace to air dry.
You Asked – We Answered
What Is a Cuban Link Chain?
The Cuban link chain (aka Cadena de Eslavon Cubano) is a variation of the curb chain. It’s named for the Cuban areas of Miami where it rose to popularity in the 70s and 80s. But its undeniable swag can now be seen beyond the coast and around the globe.
Do men wear chokers?
Men do wear chokers… they’re called neckties. Wear a bow tie to mix it up, but leave choker necklaces to the ladies of the 19th century.
Is it illegal to wear dog tags?
It’s not illegal to wear dog tags as a civilian. In the USA, it's illegal to wear any type of military medal or decoration for the purpose of fooling others and gaining prestige or awards. So… as long as you don’t do that, you’re fine.
Which type of necklace chain won’t pull your hair?
Since most guys have thicker hair (and they shave) on their neck, it’s not a huge problem to find a chain that won’t pinch and pull hair. But if you're worried about it, avoid Herringbone and Omega chains. Opt for ball chains, box chains, curb chains, marina chains and Figaro chains to be safe.
What is a good size necklace for a man?
For most men shopping for a chain necklace, get one that is 50 cm (20”) in length and 2-6 mm in width. If you’re adding a pendant, shop for a 55-60 cm (22-24”) necklace and 4-6 mm width.
How thick should a man's chain be?
The thickness of a chain depends on its purpose. Do you want a chain to hold a pendant? Then choose one that fits proportionally with the pendant – you can’t hang a super tiny cross on a 12 mm chain.
If you’re looking for a thick, chunky chain to give Run-DMC a run for his money… then shop for the thickest rope chain you can find.
Are necklaces unisex?
It depends on the necklace. Most necklaces designed for men have a certain thickness and weight that separates them from the more thin and delicate necklaces made for women.
Are necklaces on guys cool?
Did we write an entire article about it? Yes, necklaces look good on guys. If you’re nervous about finding the right one for you, drop us a line!
Can men wear two necklaces?
Guys can wear more than 1 necklace. The key to layering is to wear necklaces of different lengths and to not wear more than 2 or 3.
Should guys wear gold or silver necklaces?
The necklace you choose should match the other metals you’re wearing. Gold watch = gold necklace. The exception to this rule is if the necklace has personal or sentimental value. If that’s the case… rules be damned!
Should men wear gold chains?
We are firm believers in ‘Tell Your Story’. Wear a gold chain if you want to. If you’re worried that it’ll be too much or you’ll get asked about your new rap album, buy a thinner gold-tone necklace to start and make sure your other metal accessories are also gold-coloured.
What style of chain is the strongest?
The strongest type of chain necklace is the wheat chain. It consists of 4 strands of intertwined and interlocked oval links.
What are long necklaces for men called?
A long necklace is called a long necklace. Some rosaries and malas (a type of beaded necklace used in yoga and meditation) are quite long. The advantage to many longer necklaces is that they can wrap multiple times around your wrist for a stacked bracelet look.
Can I swim with a stainless steel necklace?
It’s not a good idea to wear your stainless steel necklace or jewellery while swimming in the ocean. Not only could you lose your favourite necklace and have it eaten by tuna and then end up on your plate of sashimi one day, but the saltwater may also cause your jewellery to tarnish. While most tarnish caused by saltwater is easily removed, the concern is with the joints, locking mechanism and other small areas of your necklace.
The same is true for swimming in the pool – we suggest removing your necklace before diving in. A quick dip is one thing… doing laps as you train for the Olympics is another. Chlorine can be damaging to stainless steel over time.
It is generally OK to shower with your stainless steel necklace. However, avoid wearing your jewellery for a long soak in the tub.
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