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 symbolizes your journey, an adventure, a special moment in life or even reminds you of a time and place. What story will yours tell?
For more information about layering necklaces, check out our Ultimate Guide to Layering Necklaces.
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.
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 (14") chains with 12 mm width.
Forget the costume jewelry or string of pearls your grandma rocks. Nowadays, necklaces for men come in a wide range of styles to match your story.
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, Beiber).
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 personalize your engraved dog tag? Click here for engraving ideas and inspiration.
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
TYPES OF CHAIN CLASPS
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 Copenhagen-based 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.
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
The first beaded necklace dates back 110,000 years ago and was found in the Skhul Cave in Israel. While the first beaded jewelry 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.
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 discoloration. Whether it’s dyed leather or painted, long exposure to water can fade or peel the coloring.
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.
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.
Do not submerge a leather necklace in water because it can shrink and lose its color. Instead, use a slightly damp cloth with a drop of mild hand soap (moisturizer free) to gently wipe down the necklace. Wipe with a clean damp cloth afterwards and allow the leather necklace to air dry before wearing.
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.
The Cuban chain is a variation of the cable chain. It’s named for the Cuban areas of Miami where it rose to popularity in the 70s and 80s. But it’s undeniable swag can now be seen beyond the coast and around the globe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Um... did we write an entire article about it? Yes, necklaces look cool on guys. If you’re nervous about finding the right one for you, drop us a line!
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.
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!
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-colored.
The strongest type of chain necklace is the wheat chain. It consists of 4 strands of intertwined and interlocked oval links.
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.
It’s not a good idea to wear your stainless steel necklace or jewelry while swimming in the ocean. Not only could you lose your favorite 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 jewelry 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 jewelry for a long soak in the tub.