Music has been a defining factor in Latino men's fashion through the decades. Today, Latinos are wearing jewelry to define their individual fashion style, more than to identify themselves with the music of their culture.
Reggaeton artist Don OmarTropical music expert Archie Mercado, host of the Salsa web-show "Cocinando con Archie", remembers when he arrived in Miami in the 1970s as a teenager. He had a passion for jazz and the afro rhythms of Caribbean music, and the best places to enjoy these sounds were in the burgeoning Cuban neighborhoods of Miami. The mix of the music with the distinctive look of the men who played and danced to those early rumbas became an identifiable cultural symbol to the teen newcomer. "Men were known to wear 18k gold necklaces with a particular shape called 'Cuban Link'," says Mercado. "Hanging from their necklaces there was usually a medal with the saint of their devotion. The top buttons of their hand-made, linen Guayabera shirts were undone to reveal the medal. They also wore a nice gold watch, a gold pulso or bracelet and a good-size ring. To finish the look there was the required cigar and a pair of white shoes. These men were the definition of Caribbean elegance."
These days, when it comes to Latino men wearing jewelry there seems to be an intentional mellowing down of past traditions. The jewelry is sparse, and when necklaces or bracelets are worn, they're usually thin and subtle. Los Angeles-based fashion stylist Jomari Goyso, whose celebrity clients include Kim Kardashian and Penélope Cruz, has been observing the latest swing of the jewelry-wearing pendulum among Latin men today. Goyso finds that it has more to do with a fashion choice than with blending in.
"The trend is towards having jewelry make an individual fashion statement, to make it work with the outfit," says Goyso. He's also seen some interesting pairings: "Latin men are mixing gold and silver items, something that was never done before. They are also mixing stones, especially coral and amber, with the necklace featuring a different stone than the ring." Mercado echos this trend, finding that the newer generations are no longer wearing jewelry to attract attention or identify themselves with a particular musical movement. Religious pieces and vintage family jewelry then get blended in with the modern, a trend Goyso himself has incorporated in his everyday wear.
The book on Latino jewelry has not been closed yet; it may have started in musical culture, but Latinos are becoming more fashion conscious and more open to a new world of style possibilities. "Young Latinos seem to be camouflaging behind mainstream fashion nowadays," says Mercado.
Jomari Goyso is a Spanish-born celebrity stylist based in Los Angeles, CA. He currently co-hosts a weekly fashion segment on Univision's "Primer Impacto" every Friday at 5:00 pm EST. You can follow him on Twitter: @Jomarigoyso.