At this season’s fashion shows and red carpet events, one accessory has been a favorite: a classic bejeweled brooch worn on the lapel or across the chest. Perhaps more surprising is how these designs, normally associated with grandma’s jewelry box, have been particularly championed by men.
Actor Paul Mescal wore a vintage Cartier brooch to the Bafta. Actor and director Michael B Jordan wore rare Tiffany bird pins to the Academy Awards ceremony last week. Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Oscar winners Brendan Fraser and Ke Huy Quan wore diamond pins to accept their awards, while RRR star Ram Charan wore a lapel full of decorations that looked like medals.
“Male celebrities who wear brooches on the red carpet, especially designs that look more feminine, have a slightly transgressive feel, but they are really rediscovering a lost fashion,” said jewelry historian Rachel Church, author of Brooches and Badges. “Before the invention of buttons, pins and brooches were essential to hold fabric together. They were often status marks as well as useful objects. Fashions changed towards the end of the 19th century, however, and by the end of the 20th century, most men wore almost no jewelry.
Now men in general – not just celebrities – are discovering the delights of ornate accessories.
“Jewelry has come to prominence in menswear in recent years, starting with simple signet rings and chains, thanks in large part to Connell in Normal people,” says Charlie Teasdale, style director at Squire magazine, referring to the hit BBC drama. “Now we are in a place where it is much more acceptable for men to wear precious and elaborate jewelry on a daily basis.”
This season, it looks like brooches are only going to grow in popularity, as they were spotted at the men’s and women’s fashion shows in February. Gucci showed pearl cords with diamond clasps, Louis Vuitton created tiny safety pins for musical instruments, and Grace Wales Bonner’s menswear collection included exquisite pearls and Ghanaian bead creations. Rihanna wore three diamond brooches when she performed at the Super Bowl in February – another clear sign that the brooch is back.
Buyers are also paying attention to them. Luxury resale platform RealReal reported that demand for brooches increased by 27% at the end of 2022. On TikTok, the hashtag “brooch” had more than 104 million views.
“Brooches are a great piece of jewelry to send a message,” says Church. “They are usually worn close to eye level, have a pictorial surface and can be made in large sizes. They look respectable enough, even serious, but they can be used to send a subtle signal.”
Some celebrities wear the jewelry for symbolic meaning – Ke Huy Quan wore a fan pin on the red carpet in honor of his Asian heritage, and Ram Charan’s pins at the Oscars depicted military medals and chakras, a nod to his role as a revolutionary.
Politicians have revived the pin’s power recently. Historically, they wore brooches to signal loyalty – the forerunner of the political badge. American politician Madeleine Albright made an art of it. Lady Hale’s spider brooch made headlines in 2019 when she chose to wear the web-spinner insect to deliver the verdict on Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament.
Political pins are also seeing a resurgence in the House of Representatives, with Republicans like George Santos wearing assault rifles in their lapels to show their commitment to the right to bear arms. At Joe Biden’s State of the Nation address in February, politicians arrived wearing everything from crayons and abortion pins to Ukrainian flags.
In British politics, Suella Braverman is a big fan of a pin. This month she used a diamond tree – traditionally a symbol of life and growth – to deliver her speech to the House of Commons in small boats.
“It’s interesting that brooches are coming back into fashion,” says Church. “They’re very affordable: they don’t need to be sized, there’s no need to pierce your ears, and they can be worn with any type of outfit.
“I think those of us who remember our grandparents wearing brooches don’t find them attractive, but the next generation is ready to discover them.”