For those currently holed up in their childhood homes, going through old boxes of clothes and photos alike can be an exercise in regret. The zip-off pants you relished in middle school now, might be best described as awkward. Those too-high heels you splurged on, hobbled around in, and swore you'd wear forever? Ready to be donated or sold off. That pricey high school dance ensemble? A likely relic in the back of a closet. If there's one category that's semi-immune to this type of cringeworthiness, it's jewelry — particularly investment pieces like diamond studs, hoops, birthstone rings, or a pendant necklaces. Right now, it's time to dig up your old tennis bracelets, because they're the latest jewelry trend to make a comeback.
For many, the tennis bracelet was, and still is, a sentimental piece, worn for special occasions like holidays and anniversaries. In recent years, they just didn't quite jive with the bracelet stacks worn by many trendsetters. But now, jewelry designers have reimagined the tennis bracelet for a modern shopper, going for a laid-back-luxe look that works for minimalists and bold dressers alike.
Below, five fine jewelry designers — Zoë Chicco, Eva Zuckerman of Eva Fehren, Shelley Sanders of The Last Line, Ashley Zhang, and Katherine Kim of KatKim — explain their interpretations of the trend. Plus, modern styling tips and picks to shop if you're ready to invest.
The Tennis Bracelet Trend: The Nostalgia Factor
"I think nostalgia is always popular, and this is what makes trends cyclical," Zhang tells TZR of the style's recent reemergence. "You have an emotional connection to your past when you re-discover styles like a classic tennis bracelet."
Chicco says that tennis bracelets are part of the '80s and '90s nostalgia wave and that in the '80s, the tennis bracelet rose in popularity as a bit of a status symbol. "It was a big deal to some people," she said. "While the size of the diamonds may have changed from person to person, they all looked pretty much the same. They all had round stones set in the same four-prong basket setting. So, the look definitely spoke of a certain era." Now, Chicco says that delicate tennis bracelets made with smaller diamonds are what feel freshest, especially layered with other bracelets for relaxed, elevated style. "It's not about something big and flashy anymore. It's about everyday bling that feels modern but will never go out of style."
The Tennis Bracelet Trend: Modern Designs
To modernize this trend, designers are making subtle changes, swapping the setting types and playing with different sizes and cuts of stone. For Sanders, color has also become a key component. "It was important we offer the classic diamond version as well as solid-colored versions, which I could never find," she explains. "I jumped at the opportunity to make them, which is why we have all 12 birthstones in addition to our rainbow version, which is one of our core styles. Fun fact, our rainbow tennis bracelet is based on a string bracelet my family, and I all wear, just upgraded to stones like amethyst, rubies, and emeralds."
Zuckerman, who is known for an edgy-minimalist design aesthetic, explains that timeless pieces like a tennis bracelet need a surprise or twist to feel fresh and wearable. "There is always something interesting to me about taking a traditional piece and turning it on its head," she says. "We initially started with impossibly delicate, very stackable tennis bracelets. They felt like a diamond thread on your wrist, which felt very young and modern to me. We then transitioned into slightly chunkier pieces with unexpected colors like black and grey diamonds and blackened metal. I have played with inverting diamonds and experimenting with scale as a way of toughening tennis bracelets up to suite my customer."
Kim says that the size and shape of the stones used in a tennis bracelet are key elements for a fresh interpretation, though, she often re-sets heirloom tennis bracelets for her clients. "Reinventing the setting and exploring alternative cuts is a great way to modernize this classic staple," she says. "It can be interpreted in so many beautiful ways."
The Tennis Bracelet Trend: Mastering The Casual-Luxe Look
No matter the metal type, carat weight, or stone color, all five designers agree that the key to mastering a modern look when wearing a tennis bracelet is making it work with your everyday clothing. Shoppers are looking for pieces they can style with casual staples like t-shirts and jeans, leisurewear, and mixed in with other jewelry. "I think tennis bracelets look coolest when they're combined and layered with more casual clothes, stacked with your favorite watch, friendship bracelet, or a gold bracelet," says Zuckerman. "What makes it feel modern is when it feels like you're wearing your bracelet in a way that reflects your style."
Sanders says much of the recent appeal of tennis bracelets is rooted in casual styling instead of reserving them for a special occasion. "A tennis bracelet is beautiful dressed up, but it's almost cooler dressed down." The Last Line designer also says that the look of mixed jewelry — something old with new — is very current and a fresh way to wear fine jewelry every day. "Wearing your sneakers and sweats with a tennis bracelet or necklace feels new and of the moment," adds Kim.
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