Keys are one of the few universal items that pretty much everyone has to deal with at some point. We may have electronic key cards in the office, but to drive a car, get into the house, or just unlock a gym locker you still need a plain old key. Actually holding on to those keys is another universal headache that regardless of culture or politics, demands the ubiquitous key ring or key chain.
In my opinion, key chains are not particularly influenced by fashion cycles; however, I would say that they are affected by broader social and design trends. For example, the key cases which were popular for decades appear to have all but vanished from the market. I can’t recall the last time I laid eyes on one. The key chain itself however – the functional object – remains. This is too bad as the key case really is an elegantly functional way to organize and house your key collection.
Why the change in demand? There are many reasons to be sure, not the least of which is the over-sized smart car keys so many of us now sport. They just don’t fit in the case. Perhaps it’s all the scanning hang tags now dangling off key rings everywhere. Whatever the cause, progress, technological change, and simple needs often trump fashion.
Generally, I would say that men tend to favor key chains that are simple but also reflect a little personality. In the States, classics like the braided leather loop and preppy “tie” versions are always pretty popular.
The latter has a fob of summer belting shaped like a loop; the kind with signal flags that spell out “Martha’s Vineyard,” or whatnot. Like any other personal object, a key chain says something about the keys owner. In this case, it implies a sunny, sandy and privileged lifestyle.
And why not? Whenever I see a naked key ring, I feel a bit sad. An interesting fob or some other unique moniker says, “start here,” when it comes to personal style. Keys themselves are anonymous, key rings should not be.
I think the key – pun intended – is to have something neither ostentatious nor pedestrian. For the captains of industry, Tiffany & Co. is the master of simple elegance. Ralph Lauren has some wonderful key chains that speak to the easy landed gentry’s lifestyle: lots of leather and brass. Key chains can be found that reflect personal interests too: mountain climbing carabineers, miniature ship lanterns, and even tiny golf clubs.
For the aspirational among us, it is easy to get a hold of BMW, Mercedes, or Ferrari logoed versions. Even brands supposedly above such crass commercialism like Rolls Royce let you buy a piece of the myth. Of course, if you’re using it to impress a certain someone, you still need to come up with the matching car at some point.