I don’t want to completely blow your mind [extended bong rip], but have you ever really considered the nature of the self? Are we born with immutable characteristics that define us throughout our days on this planet, or do we reinvent ourselves constantly—sometimes so totally that the “you” you are now isn’t the same you as, say, last year?
What I’m really trying to ask here is: Am I the kind of guy who can wear a gold chain?
Sure, I’m physically capable of draping one around my neck. But that’s not the challenge. A necklace is a necklace, but I’d never been able to get past the idea that a string of precious-metal links is more than that. It’s a statement. Of wealth. Or confidence. A desire to let the world know you’ve made it. Whatever it was, I had imbued this inanimate object with enormous spiritual power that required a personality—a person—capable of matching it.
And then, not too long ago, I started to suspect that perhaps I had been thinking way too hard about what it means to wear a piece of jewelry. Sitting in the Esquire offices one morning, I noticed a colleague wearing a thin gold chain over his black T-shirt. The vibe wasn’t mystically powerful; it was just cool. It looked good. And it occurred to me that maybe the only way to be the kind of guy who wears a gold chain is to wear a gold chain.
So I tried it. I felt too visible. Too loud. I was utterly convinced of my own ostentation. And then I walked outside—and no one gave me a second look. Some people at the office glanced at this clearly life-altering accessory, and then said nothing and moved on with their day.
I didn’t feel like a Gold Chain Guy, and yet here I was, a guy wearing a gold chain. Maybe they’re one and the same, or maybe the latter begets the former. There’s no way to know until you try. Fasten the clasp on a thin one with a pendant (your call whether you’re channeling Steve McQueen or Tony Soprano) and see how it sits. Or go for it with a thick Cuban link and see if you feel famous.
Are you a gold chain guy? Am I? Yes, if we choose to be. Or maybe we’re just born that way and free will is an illusion. Here, take the bong.
Lead image, clockwise from top: Santos de Cartier chain ($7,450) by Cartier; Curb chain ($1,650) by Tom Wood; Padlock charm chain ($430) by AMBUSH; 18k Small box chain ($3,050) by David Yurman.
This article appears in the March 2020 issue of Esquire.