Within ‘This Thing of Ours,’ guys pretty much agree on the really important stuff: artisan tailoring (which need not necessarily be bespoke), bench-made shoes (again, bespoke or top-of-the-line ready-mades), handkerchiefs with hand-rolled edges, etc. Outside of these main pillars solidarity breaks down a little bit, and there is room for, to use a word coined by Xavier Cugat, “opinionation.”
A major bone of contention is the pinky ring—whether or not it should be worn. The Duke of Windsor wore one. So did Tony Biddle. The Prince of Wales wears one now, as do André Churchwell and Alan Flusser. I wear mine, when I can find the wretched thing. But for every guy who wears a pinky ring, I can think of another well-dressed man who does not. Bruce Boyer, for example, wears his wedding band, but no pinky ring. I’ve never met Mr. Boyer, but I have a strong sense that nothing short of a gun in his ribs could make him wear one.
For some guys, the pinky ring is a bit too déclassé; a little too Cosa Nostra. I wear one because I like the idea of a guy who is otherwise dressed in perfectly good taste, yet has this shiny little touch sinister dangling from his little finger. It’s a nice counterpoint to a classic outfit, as well as being just the merest hint that maybe you have a dark side.
The pinky ring is also a good way to identify other members of ‘The Glorious Club.’ If I see a guy wearing a well-made suit and shoes, I’m not sure of his motivation—he could be dressing for the office, a woman, or both. To a slightly lesser degree, the same could be said of a guy in a good sport coat, tie, and odd trousers. But if I see a well-decked out guy wearing a pinky ring, the ring is the sure sign that the guy is dressing for himself.
Now, let’s say you were a non-believer who’s decided to take the plunge. Which hand? For some guys, this not-so-trivial consideration is a headache-maker. The prevailing school of thought says to wear it on your right hand, since the left side is already so loaded up: most men wear their watches on their left wrist, and your boutonniere and pocket square are obviously on that side. If you wear hats, even the bow is on the left, and if you wear a feather in your hat—which goes in the bow—well, the right side of your body can look almost naked by comparison. The impoverished right side has only your ticket pocket, if the jacket you’re wearing that day happens to have one.
Then there are the guys who, for reasons known only to themselves, favor a fully loaded left side. Still can’t decide? Then use the William Rhinelander Stuart Solution: wear ‘em on both hands (In case you’re wondering, Alan Flusser and Churchwell are both ‘right-handers.’ I myself am a bit of an odd duck: I switch mine back and forth, often several times during the course of a single day. There are, I hope, worse and weirder habits out there).
Now, as to what your pinky ring should look like—guess what; I’m not going to tell you what it should look like. ‘Our Thing’ has too much dogma already: guys who think a pocket square should be angled a certain way and no other; who don’t think pocket squares and boutonnieres should be worn at the same time; who consider red neckties suitable only for Mondays in July—the list of ad hoc rules is endless. We have allowed preferences to become pronouncements. Every guy wants to be a sixteenth century pope, and we are only a hairsbreadth away from starting our own fashion inquisition. Not that I don’t know where the dogmatism comes from. The intentions are actually good. There is a lot of grotesque menswear out there, and naturally we don’t want it creeping into ‘this Thing’ we’ve built up. Ugly menswear is our equivalent of a stool-pigeon, and, in order for any clandestine organization to survive, stool-pigeons must be rooted out and destroyed. We just have to be careful that, like actual mob bosses, our zeal does not turn into paranoia, and we wind up cutting each other’s throats over the wrong choice of a sock.
So the choice in pinky rings is yours. There is the standard gold or silver signet, but there are also endless variations: gold set with any variety of precious stones, silver folk rings are not out of the question, and, extra-special, solid black onyx rings edged in gold, and inlaid with gems of your choosing. The sky’s the limit. Knock yourself out.
I will, however, reverse myself slightly and make two rules about pinky rings. When you hear what they are, I think you’ll forgive me. First, make the thing considerably smaller than a golf ball. Secondly, and this is an absolute must, NO GOLD NUGGETS. You all know exactly what kind of ring I’m talking about. If I catch you wearing one of those unforgivably rococo gold nugget rings, I will be forced to assume that at some point in your life, probably in a dark, candle-lit basement somewhere (in Jersey), you have uttered the words, “May I burn like this saint if I ever betray my friends…”
-Text by Barry Pullen