Boys' Jewelry

Figure 1.--This advertisement for Hamilton watches appeared in a February 1951 American magazine. Watches were considered appropriate graduation presents.

Boys until the 1990s were not know for wearing jewelry when earings became common for a short period. This caused us to have a closer look at the topic and we have found more jewlry items than we expected in thevphotographic record. While girls are more associated with jewelry, boys have also worn a variety of jewelry accessories. Younger boys might wear pendants and lockets. There were several items associated with the necktie. Rings have varied in popularity. Boys have even before earrings became a vogue worn a variety of jewelry. Watches have been the most common, but a varriety of other pieces of jewlry have also been worn. The popularity of the various items have varied over time. There have also been age variations.


We notice a rnge of jewlet items in the old photographs we have archived on HBC. At first we did not give any attention to jewlrt, but as HBC has developed we have come to pay more attention to the small details. Our archive is till fairly limited to draw any firm chronological assessments converning jewlry items. We note short-term fads like earings. Actual rings seem more constant over time. Warches are popular over time, but affected chronologically by stylistic and technological trends affecting the watches. Lockets seem affected by both age and chronological trends. There have been a variety of jewlry items associted with neckties which have varied over time along with the popularity of ties.

The 1850s

We notice boys waringh rings in a number of Daguerreotypes. Sometimes gold color was even added. Thus boys were wearing rings in the 1850s. And as we have ctrouble differentiating 1840s anfd 50s Dags, presumably the 1840s as well. We know rings were worn in the 50s because we see them in Ambros as well. A good example is Elisha Dickerman, an American boy about 1850, who wears a large gold ring. We note a younger American boy and girl wearing neckaces with a cross pendant, we think in the 1850s. As almost all our Dags and Anbros are American, these are American trends. We are less sure about Europe.

The 1880s

We notice a very young American boy, Bert Dodge wearing a gold ring (1880s). An unidentified American boy who looks to be about 6 years old wears a locket and ring (1885).

The 1900s

We notice younger boys in the late-19th and early-20th century wearing lockets. A good examole is 2-year old Bert Cross about 1905.

The 1930s

We notice an unidentified American boy wearing a plain ring about 1930.

The 1950s

ID bracelets with heavy links were very popular in the 1950s. Girls would wear matching bracelets with smaller links. Wrist watches were popular graduation gifts.

The 1960s

Boys in the 1960's a lot of boys wore those wide-band watches.

The 1970s

Wide band watches continued to be popular in the 1970's, and some times with an ID bracelet. Some extreme Punk jewelry fashions appeared in the 1970s. We notice English boys wearing rings in a clothing ad.

The 1980s

Boys in the 1980's wore at least TWO watches at once (remember?) and a bunch of friendship bracelets on the same and/or other wrist. At one time you could not fine one boy who did not have both wrists full of something. (Watches, bracelets, or both). Also sweat wristbands were really popular to always just wear. (Those are coming back lately for boys). From about 1981-82, a new fashion craze hit the UK, called " New Romantics" or Trendies.Trendies was probably the more local and mainly used term for this group of fashion concious people. Boys used to wear earrings in thier left ear, and only the left ear. A year or so later, tie pins came into fashion with chrome plated digital watches that played various chimes,rings and necklaces were also the order of the day as well. At about 1983, the tiepins progressed slightly with a small chain that hung from each end,these chains would dangle across you tie, although in my school days these only lasted a week as they were consisded dangerous incase boys had a fight and they strangled themselves (I still even now think it was ridiculious as they were thinner that a piece of string and wouldn't hold the weight of a catapiller). Half gold sovereign rings became the rage in the mid eighties, but that was in you later years as soon as you left school and got a job.

The 1990s

The major development in the 1990s was that boys began wearing earings. By the end of the decade it had becomne quite common--although still only a minoritybof boys wore them.


Watches are perhaps the most common jeweley items worn by boys. And in the 19th century before the invention of wrist watches were worn with fobs. There are, however, many other items. Here age was a factor. Pendeants and lockets have also been worn, especially by younger boys. We see other boys wearing ring, more teenagers than boys. The popularity of jewelry items have varied over time. Collar pins and cuff links which were once common, at least among teenagers when dressing up or today no longer seen. Tie clips were also common during the early- and mid-20th century. But new items such as ear rings have appeared. Bracelets have varried in popularity.


We notice boys wearing different kinds of award bages and pins. these are a little differebnt than other jewlelry items in that they have to be earned and not just purfchased. This seems especially common in America and Britain. We are not entirely sure for what these badges were awarded. Modern boys often win sports awards, but the badges we see are mostly from the late-19th and early-20th century. Boys at the time did not normally receive awards like these for sports. More likely thet were awards for perfect attendance at schools, memorizing Bible verses, or elocution awards. Perhaps readers will have a better idea about these awards. We notice numerous portraits with boys wearing awards. Unfortunately the esolution is usually not good enough to see for just what they were awards. Various groups gave these awards, including churches, fraternal societies, and schools.


Boys commonly wore ID bracelets with heavy chain links in the 1950s. POW braclets were worn beginning in the 1960s. In the 1980's boys wore friendship bracelets on the same and/or other wrist. At one time you could not fine one boy who did not have both wrists full of something. (Watches, bracelets, or both). Also sweat wristbands were really popular to always just wear. (Those are coming back lately for boys). One HBC contributor reports, "When I was about 12 years old in 1964, a number of boys wore ID bracelets inscribed with their first names.

Collar pins

A collar pin is an item of men's jewelry popular during the late-19th century and early-20th century that holds the tips of a dress shirt collar together. There was ahort-lived revival during the 1960s. Boys did not normally have collar pins at the time because boys collars were very destinctive at the time the collar pin was most in vogue. We do note teenagers wearing them. The collar pin was associated with the necktie and was designed to pass underneath the necktie knot. This was simmilat to the tabbed collar. The collar pin not only kept the collar in place by holding the collar tips together. This lifted the knot and was seen as providijg an aesthetically pleasing arc for the man's or boy's necktie at the collar. While collar pin is pribably the most common term, there were other terms used, including collar bar and collar clip. The standard collar pin was about 3-5 centimeters long. Well-to-do people had gold pins. There were three types of collar pins. There were barbell pins which had ends that screwed off. The pin then was inserted through special eyelets in the tips of the collar. There were also pins like a safety pin, that either passed through the collar eyelits or pierced the ends of the collar. There were also bars with clips that grasped the ends of the collars. The collar bar has declined in popuilarity because of the declinung use of ties, but also the popularity of the preppy favorites, the button-down collar, was an alternative method of holding the collar tips in place.

Cuff links

Dress shirts intil the 1970s usually came with French cuffs requiring cuff links. One HBC contributor remembers in the 1960s, "On more than one Christmas my brother and I received cufflinks and matching tie clasps."

Ear rings

One of the newest items of jewlery worn by boys is an earring. This has been normally a jewlry item worn by girls, but boys began wearing them in the 1990s. The general convention has been for boys to wear one rather than two like the girls wear. Boys earrings also tend to be smaller and simplier than the ones worn by girls.

Identity braclet


HBC has noted that many young children wearing dresses also wore lockets. This includes boys and girls. Interestingly, only boys not yet breeched wore lockets--at least visibly. Once a boy was breeched and began wearing knee pants or trousers, he no longer wore his locket. This as the case regardless of the outfit worn, Fauntleroy suits, sailort suits, or other outfits. Long hair is also associate with lockets. We also note boys wearing lockets with tunic suits, mostly fancy tunic suits. This is a bit of a complication. We are not entirely sure if this constitutes breeching as the boys wore bloomer knickers under their tunics. Note that tunics became very popular at the turn-of-the 20th century at the time that the convention of younger boys wearing dresses.


Necklaces have also been worn. These are particularly common with Catholic boys. Crosses and St. Christopher medals were the most common. One HBC conrtibutor believes that St. Chrispoher medals were commonly worn by both Protestanr and Catholic boys. HBC believes that they were more popular with Catholic boys, but has not data to support this assessment. The St. Christpher's medal was worn on a silver chain around the neck. Necklaces are worn a lot lately as well. Both silver/gold chains for formal occasions, and the leather chokers other times. We note lockets in many old portraits Necklaces were less common. One example is two unidentified American sisters, we think in the late 1850s. We note a younger American boy and girl wearing neckaces with a cross pendant, we think in the 1850s.


Rings are a major jewlry item. Rings are a gender neutral jewelry item, although gender may affect ring styles. Most children did not wear rings, in part because they had a tendency to lose them. We do not have a sufficent archive to assess ring trends. A problem here is that the child had to hold their hand in a certain way for the ring to show. Thus we can not see if they are wearing rings or not. The photographic record does suggest that rings were not very common for either boys or girls, but we are unable to make any valid assessment of trends. We are not yet sure of age, chronology, country, gender, and social class trends associated with rings. We notice a few boys wearing gold rings in the 19th century. It does not seem to have been very common. An example is Bert Dodge in the 1880s. Another is an unidentified American by about 1890. One HBC contributor reports that onyx rings were popular in the 1960s. Most American boys in their senior year of highschool began wearing class rings.

Tie clasps

Ties until the 1970s were almost always worn with tie clasps. The tie clasp kept the tie close to the shirt instead of flying off in all directions. Now on the rare occasions that boys wear ties, they rarely wear tie clasps.


One sign that a 19th century boy was growing up was when he received his first pocket watch and fob. Eatches were still expensive though so usually only boys from affluent families had them and they might only be worn for formal occasions, especially by younger boys. Watches have in the 20th century probably been the most common jewlry or accessory worn by boys. Boys in the 1960's began wearing wrist watches much more than before. One of the most popular bands was a Speidel "Twistoflex". A lot of boys wore those wide-band watches, that went into the 70's. Recently, watches are really back strong, I have seen some of the wide-band watches come back. But mainly they are still the black watches. (Digital and analog). Watches were rather expensive until the 1970s and only a minority of boys wore them to school or while playing after school. They were something a little special. They were often considered an excellent graduation present. A 1951 advertisement for Hamilton watches read, "At last he has graduated--to a Hamilton. Whay a proud moment. And how important in the years to come that you have given that someone you love the watch world famous for accuarcy." The ad then goes into great detail about the watch itself. I'm not sire when wrist watches first appeared or when boys started wearing them. I believe that wrist watches were initially more poular for boys than girls, but I can't substatiate that yet.


Country Trends

We have noted destinctive trends associated with jewlry in different countries. Identity braclets for boys were popular in America during the 1950s. Ear rings became the in thing among American boys in the 1990s. We also see them in Europe. A French reader tells us, "In France, it is traditional that the godmother provude a necklace chain with birth date engraved for the Baptism. In the past times babies had a gold pin on his bib." A British reader remembers regulations about jewelry at his schools. He writes, "I noted the Trutex schoolwear ad and was surprised to see one of th boys wearing a ring. It just reminded me that jewellry was banned in our school even for girls and that included watches.It made me laugh to recall that one boy was showing off a watch his dad had bought him as a reward for passing the eleven plus and out teacher noticed and took it off him until going home time.We spent the rest of the day asking him the time.I notice that all of the boys in the picture on the main English personal experinces page have watches, so the policy must have different in different types of school. My mate Michael told me that his sisters were allowed to wear cruxifixes to their school but he was not allowed to wear a St Christopher that he'd been given at his Christening so at his school it was different for girls and boys. They gave the same reason as our school that it was dangerous to wear them round the neck when playing.He was not allowed to wear it to play out either only to mass on Sunday but he did keep it in his room and showed it to me.It was silver and he once considered selling it when we were going to run off together after some incident had got us into trouble but, of course, it all came to nothing."

Mother's Jewelry

We nother jewekry for mothers with rememerances of their children. Our information here is still quite limited.Some of the most common were lockets. Such lockets might hold a lock of the child's hair, which is why they are called lockets. They also held minature painted portraits and after the develiopment of photography (1840s), photographic portraits. Children also wore lockets, but generally only younger boys. We note photographic pins in the late 19th century which were worn by mothers.


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Created: March 7, 2000
Last updated: 2:42 AM 11/4/2011