Brass knuckles, brass monkeys, knucks, brass knucks, nuckles…anyway you put it, knuckle dusters make a bold statement. Usually it’s the kind of statement that says “you really don’t want to mess with me in a dark alley.” But when you hang them on the same necklace chain as a mini-harmonica and pair them with skinny jeans, summer loafers, and an American Apparel deep V, they really should tell a different tale. Like perhaps that you enjoy functional jewelry or unique statement pieces or maybe even mobster memorabilia. Mistakenly wear it to the airport, they take it away at security, slap of the wrist, and you move along, right?
Not so fast.
Apparently, the fine folks at LAX consider you a felon in possession of a deadly weapon and will arrest you on sight.
My friend wore this exact ensemble for his first flight to Seattle and was immediately cuffed and sent to beautiful Culver City to live out 27 hours behind bars.
You guys, he was actually arrested by the fashion police.
So in honor of his time in lock-up for a maybe too-bold fashion statement, here are some time-honored deadly accessories:
Also known as pillbox rings or snuff rings, poison rings have been around since the sixteenth century in jolly ole Europe. They contain a hidden compartment underneath the bezel that was used to slip poison into food and drink or for a convenient suicide before dungeon torture and the guillotine. As barbaric practices gave way to more humane methods, poison was replaced by perfume, crosses, locks of hair, hidden notes and messages, and other keepsakes, earning it a new reputation as a locket ring.
Pearl Inlay Derringer
In 19th century Philadelphia, a man named Henry Deringer made the very first pocket-sized pistol. This model, incidentally, was used by John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The world took note and Remington was soon manufacturing thousands of the palm pistols under the misspelled moniker, “Derringer.” Mother-of-pearl grips, often engraved and inscribed, adorned the derringers of many a brothel worker on the western frontier as well as famous cowboys like Wyatt Earp. A simple slip into the garter and you are fancifully armed and ready to duel.
The origin of this little deadly gem is unknown…at least to me, so for now I’ll just take a few stabs in the dark. Victorian? Perhaps originally intended as a letter opener. Or possibly a torture method in ancient Asia; an agonizingly slow and painful slip under the fingernail. Free Masons, seamstresses, so many could have a use for a tiny concealed blade. It’s easy to see why hidden knife necklaces are a current and coveted accessory.
And hey why not, all hail the original offender. Authentic brass knuckles are made of steel, surprisingly enough, and wrap around the knuckles for maximum tissue and bone disruption upon impact in hand-to-hand combat. Popularized during the American Civil War, knuckle dusters are now illegal in many countries, but are trending throughout today’s fashionable youth, doubling as belt buckles and pendants. Fun fact: the French call brass knuckles “The American Punch.”