Pendants That Harness the Erotic Potential of the Male Neckline

Men have long worn necklaces, but the newest styles are subtler — and seemingly meant to make the mind wander.

Article by Nick Haramis

Pendants_1Clockwise from top left: Hermès necklace,; Chopova Lowena necklace,; Celine by Hedi Slimane necklace,; Dolce & Gabbana necklace,; and Balenciaga necklace, Photograph by Kyoko Hamada. Set design by Beth Pakradooni.

A Redditor’s fig leaf, or perhaps a Photoshopper’s pasties, bubble porn is the niche online practice of manipulating an image with an opaque, Swiss cheese-style overlay to create the illusion of nudity. For example, Daniel Craig got bubbled when, in an altered photograph of the actor as James Bond in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” he emerged as if naked from Lake Como, his black swim trunks hidden beneath a seemingly moth-eaten sheet of blue. As is often the case with things we cannot quite see, these superimpositions draw us in for a closer look, encouraging our minds to wander. Indeed, in an age of unfettered, albeit often heavily filtered, access to everyone and everything, sometimes the most tantalising proposal is  merely a coy suggestion.

This might also explain a new tendency in men’s wear, embraced especially by Gen Zers, toward garments with holes in unexpected places. The New York-based lines Fang and Dion Lee each offer mock-neck knit tops that expose the shoulders and more than a hint of pecs; Lazoschmidl, which operates out of Frankfurt and Stockholm, flashes small sections of chest through a laser-cut butterfly motif in the centre of a sleeveless leather top; and at Sschafer, a genderqueer label from Melbourne, Australia, thigh-baring boxer jeans, with cutouts to reveal snippets of plaid fabric, provide an alternative to the New York brand Telfar’s more casual thigh-hole track pants. Taking the peekaboo approach to its inevitable conclusion, the Brooklyn-based designer Martina Cox, a recent graduate of the Cooper Union, creates made-to-measure Window Seat pants, which, as their name suggests, nearly defenestrate the wearer’s backside with two clear vinyl openings, one per cheek, adorned with little curtains.

Nearer the mainstream of men’s fashion, designers have been preoccupied with a single sliver of skin: the neckline, until now an unsung hero of male erogenous zones. On the runways, aided by open collars and low-cut tops, one or more pendants have been used to draw attention to, and tap into the erotic potential of, the male décolletage. For his spring 2022 collection for Saint Laurent, Anthony Vaccarello reinterpreted some of the house’s archival women’s pieces for men, styling his models in semi-unbuttoned blouses and skin-baring “Sunset Boulevard”-esque robes with romantic but robust pendants — a crystalline cross, a silver-toned whistle, a single fleshy pearl — that highlighted the wearer’s throat. While that show evoked the high drama of a Harlequin novel, Celine’s flirted openly with fetishism. In a video featuring motocross riders in the Mediterranean Embiez archipelago, Hedi Slimane debuted hard-edge biker gear with the occasional burst of joyful naïveté, sending out one model in a studded leather dog collar and a necklace with an octahedron-shaped pendant that called to mind the Eye of Providence, worn with a khaki gabardine harness under a brushed-cotton cardigan covered in cartoon puppies. In a similarly cheeky move, Dolce & Gabbana paired resurrected versions of the white swim briefs worn by the model David Gandy in the brand’s classic Light Blue fragrance ads with rosaries in yellow gold. Elsewhere, Hermès’s Véronique Nichanian styled henleys with topsy-turvy palladium horseshoe amulets accented with blue enamel, Acne Studios went full hippie with a weathered-looking brass peace-sign pendant and Courrèges transformed the lowly bottle opener into a covetable brass talisman slung from a chain; this approach was also seen in Louis Vuitton’s gold double-edged razor blade, Loewe’s rhodium and green enamel pea pod and Chopova Lowena’s stainless steel starfish.

Of course, men have long accessorised with necklaces. Pharaohs, Celtic rulers, Roman emperors and maharajahs adorned themselves in beaded collars, semicircular metallic torcs, gold pendants and gem-encrusted chains to communicate power and class. From the late 1970s until 1987, when he died, Liberace found a symbol of camp in a diamond-set 1881 Liberty Head coin pendant worn on a 14-karat gold chain, a look echoed by Elton John’s ebulliently unsubtle silver cross. Meanwhile, the gold chain the actor Tom Selleck nestled into his hairy chest reflected the era’s overall tenor of ultragallant virility. And from the ’90s onward, rappers have worn a crescendo of outlandish pieces to convey status and swagger, from Flavor Flav’s hyperbolic wall-clock necklaces to Waka Flocka Flame’s diamond and gold replica of the Muppets’ Fozzie Bear to Moneybagg Yo’s green gem-encrusted traffic light pendant. In each instance, the necklaces were projections —
of individuality, wealth, vigour or even invincibility. 

What’s unique about this this season’s necklaces is their quietness. Which isn’t to say there aren’t showstoppers among them — Givenchy’s chain of chunky interlocking gold- and silver-plated G-shaped links is one of many arresting examples — but rather that they feel more like inscrutable and alluring peepholes than pronouncements. In some cases, they transmit queerness like a gay man’s coded handkerchief. In others, such as Brioni’s silver dog tags, they buttress a more heteronormative masculinity. And in others still, they communicate nothing more than exactly what they are: shiny, pretty things engraved with a Balenciaga logo. But in each case, that quietness echoes, calling you closer, asking you to lean in a little to consider how they fall on the body — and to admire how they obscure the skin just enough to stir the imagination.