Off the cuff: the art of men's accessories

Traditionally, men have relied on their watches and the optional wedding ring as their only concession towards accessorising. But with more men taking interest in their personal style, nailing the details is becoming integral to our look.

For the past 30 years, Simon Carter has built an empire mastering these small details. Starting with a vintage 1930s motorcycle brooch he sold to boutique stores along Chelsea's Kings Road in London in the '80s, Carter has provided men with a range of unique and eye-catching cufflinks and lapel-pins.

Known for his offbeat aesthetic, Carter's success in the industry has as much to do with timing as it does his unique approach to accessory design.

Express yourself … subtly

"At the time the only cufflinks on the market were the sort of very plain cufflinks that you gave your son when he turned 21," explains Carter.

"I think the reason I've succeeded is because my products bring a sense of humour ... They're not conventional, but nothing is impossible to wear."

A great look can be achieved with a good tie, a good white shirt and a great pair of cufflinks to finish it all off.

Simon Carter

So what advice does the King of Cufflinks have for men who might be taking their first accessorised steps?

"The right way to accessorise is to express your individuality," Carter told 51698009. "But not to the point that people stare."

Pick a pocket square

One of the most common words used to describe accessories is subtle. Your accessories should complement, but not be the focus of, your outfit. For someone starting out, Carter suggests the easiest step is to begin with the pocket square.

"My father used to always say a gentleman would never leave the house without a pocket square. I think they are a very attractive way to complete an outfit."


Perhaps the most versatile of options when it comes to tarting up your garb, pocket squares can be used to add colour to your corporate look or provide a more sophisticated touch on the weekend.

While it's not necessary to match your pocket square to your tie, keeping it within the same family when it comes to hue or pattern can help avoid a 'fashion on cocaine' effect.

"You can start tonal if you're really worried about pulling it off," suggests Carter.

"If you wear a navy suit, wear a light blue-pocket square. Then go for a polka dot and then go with a contrast colour. Build up your confidence first and then take it from there."

Link it up

Cufflinks have been experiencing a recent revival thanks to brands Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and, a little closer to home, M.J. Bale revamping the French cuff.

"I think every man should have at least three or four great pairs of cufflinks and I'm not just saying that because of what I do," Carter explains.

"If you're going to go out and the occasion calls for it a great look can be achieved with a good tie, a good white shirt and a great pair of cufflinks to finish it all off."

Cufflinks are also an easy way to show off a bit of attitude without becoming tacky. Even though his own label has a reputation for unusual and intriguing designs, Carter draws the line at novelty.

"[The only] bad cufflink is any licensed cufflink from the world of Disney, comic books or TV," declares Carter.

"In a civilised society they would all be herded up, put on a large piece of tarmac and steamrolled … and I would be driving the steamroller."

Flash some bling

While jewellery in general has made a strong comeback for men, including large, statement rings and necklaces, the bracelet is this season's must-have accessory, with some of the world's most stylish men sporting them.

"Five years ago, I would never have worn a bracelet," says Carter. "Now, in my Mayfair store, we get men of every age, all the way up to their 60s and 70s buying them".

They're not stopping at one either, but piling several on at a time in leather, beads and even string next to their Audemars Piguet.

Brands such as American label Tevin Vincent offer a great range of masculine, well-crafted bracelets in a variety of materials. Or, for big spenders aren't too fond of dressing down their timepieces, Brazilian designer Luis Morais has the perfect price-tag.

Keep it real

The last piece of advice Carter suggests when it comes to building your accessories wardrobe is to pick those styles that speak to you.

"Ultimately, there are no real rights or wrongs," he explains

"Because I think any sort of dressing is about style. I urge people to create their own style – style is what you make it. Fashion is what you follow."