Sartorial Observer: From hands to hair, accessories take hold for fall

“Robert! I need your opinion on something,” my co-worker Caroline said to me after I arrived to work one morning. Interning at a showroom in New York City with 15 girls inevitably fostered an environment filled with tangential questions about clothing and accessories, so I just went along with it.

“What do you think about feathers?” she asked me while turning her computer screen around to show me a girl sporting a single earring made of long, spotted brown feathers. That was the first time I’d heard of this budding fad that seemed to take flight in just a couple of short weeks. Four years after Vogue featured feathered dresses in its iconic September 2007 issue, these avian accessories have jumped off of our clothing and onto the heads of mature women and young girls alike. Whether in the form of earrings that resemble fishing lures – which are apparently the genesis of this fad – or in longer plumes woven into hairstyles, this trend has become startlingly popular. (For the uninitiated, feather extensions are small and subtly clamped to a strand of hair, often matching the wearer’s hair color.) Just walking around Williamstown, I have spotted feather extensions and  feather earrings on a surprising number of girls.

My ambivalence towards feathers has not changed much since Caroline first enlightened me. Wearing feathers in your hair is definitely a fashion risk – a departure from what we are normally used to when it comes to everyday accessorizing. They carry the immediate advantage of convenience, since their semi-permanence means that your outfits are instantly accessorized. But like any risk, their execution can either be incredibly successful or fall flat.

If you elect to get feather extensions, keep the number of feathers placed in your hair low – one or two  – and if you get multiples, cluster them together. We want this to look deliberate, not as though you just ran through a chicken coop. Staying in the same color family and length as your hair also ensures a seamless integration with the rest of your hairstyle. Emphasize the unique textures and subtle patterns in feathers; that’s where the allure of this fad lies. You want to peak the visual interest of others subtly, prompting them to stop and look at you twice due to that uniquely captivating quality about your hair. Let the feathers speak for themselves, but try not to  let them caw like their avian predecessors.

Meanwhile, in the realm of men’s fashion, another rebellious movement has been brewing. One morning, I was perusing the GQ website and noticed a mention that men’s bracelets were gaining popularity. Always looking for chances to evolve my style, I broke out the hodgepodge of leather bracelets I had acquired on a weekend trip in Florence whilst studying abroad in Rome and piled them on my wrist. As time went on, I noticed that men of all stylistic aesthetics – from the prepster to the rocker – were sporting man bracelets all over New York City.

What I love about this trend is its general accessibility. You can participate by doing anything from buying a leather bracelet from a big department store to stealing a few hair elastics from your girlfriend and slipping them on your wrist when she’s not looking. I think that the look is best executed when one employs a mixture of colors and textures: leather, metal, cloth or wood beads. It’s time to dust off those summer camp skills and start making friendship bracelets! If you’re not in the DIY mood, check out the selection from Miansai by Michael Saiger. They take inspiration from fisherman’s knots and tackle while also incorporating materials such as  bungee cord into their pieces. Nothing feminine about that.

Robert Khederian ’12 and Elizabeth Dorr ’12 model their subtle yet stylish new accessories.

If you’re intrigued by this wave of men’s jewelry but feel a bit hesitant, don’t worry – wearing only one can be just as on-trend. But if you want to, pile them on! As I type this, I’m wearing a blue friendship bracelet, a black leather band with silver studs, a grey leather wrap bracelet, and one of my Florentine finds. Which also prompts the question, what am I doing wearing all of this in Sawyer? Let’s just not think about that. These pieces can add a sense of rugged masculinity to any outfit, a look that seems very much at home in Williamstown. In fact, just a few weeks ago, when visiting a cousin in Boulder, Colo., I encountered somebody wearing a rope cuff that, when unwound, provides five feet of cord for whatever outdoorsy task you may have. If that’s not something to get you excited about the latent possibilities of this trend, I don’t know what is.