This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
With quarantine outlawing our ability to touch, our build-up of sexual perversities has been wiped clean. We are back to horny ground zero. Now, just the thought of someone saying "hi" to me is erotic. A problem compounded by the fact my parents (whose house I have moved back into during lockdown) have some weird internet safety lock installed. If I type in anything remotely sexual – from "boob" to "BBW gets cream pied" – I get a message from Sky Safety Shield notifying me that my access is blocked. Fun! Just me and my thoughts again! So you can imagine the tsunami of thirst that washed over me upon seeing Connell Waldron, and his chain, in Normal People.
Body big, pale and unyielding as a brick shithouse, Connell is the hottest thing on TV since Cook off Skins downed a pint with a goldfish in it (unfortunately, sometimes what we're attracted to is involuntary). I fancied Connell from the moment the camera panned to his shy smile at the Sligo school lockers, but it was only when Marianne pulled his top over his head, thus revealing his neck chain, that I fully lost the plot. At that moment, the tectonic plates of my desire shifted so far that now I fancy rugby players more than footballers. I didn't know it was possible for skin to actually feel hungry, but now it's like I'm on the keto diet and he is bread. When he says, "I think you're very pretty, by the way,: the situation was only made worse. I had to pause for a while to think about what I had just seen. Should I, like, go outside and start clapping?
Thin and silver, bracing at precisely the right point at which his collar bones turn into his chest, Connell's chain is the sort that says: I’m hard as fuck, but I’m kind too. Even though one of his punches could grind a jaw into dust, when faced with conflict you just know Connell would tell the guy "don’t do that again", before walking off. He’s not worth it, Connell, but no man is worth it for you. Our quiet king. There's a certain pain behind his eyes, decorated as they are with longer than long eyelashes. You can only dream of what Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara would do to them, but sadly we'll never know, because he’s definitely the sort of serious soul who, when met with the wand, would probably say, "No sorry, I don’t tink that’s my thing at all." The chain is what balances the opposing forces within Connell, or at least sign posts them on his body. Sensitivity but strength. Desire but restraint. The Dionysian and the Apollonian (no, I'm joking now, that's too far).
Against all odds, Connell’s chain has eked out some semblance of feeling from my box set-completing, Twitter-scrolling, serotonin-free, smelly, anxious, attention-deprived sack of a body. In fact, he’s done it for men and women across the world. I feel a bit bad that this man’s breakout role in a show that navigates sex and class with a refreshingly deft hand has led to an astonishing wave of objectification above all else, but what can you do. Some questions, then, about The Chain.
WHAT IS THE SEXY CHAIN AND WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
If you Google "men wearing chain necklaces" you'll see reams and reams of articles from websites prescribing how to wear one without looking feminine. I asked a male friend about chains and he said, "Your girlfriend has to buy it." I replied: "Can you not buy it yourself?" To which he said: "I would be embarrassed to." Fellas, watch out: it might actually be gay to wear a chain.
Though there is still a stigma about men wearing jewellery in 2020 (LOL), men have been wearing necklaces since Ancient Greece, when they were used to denote wealth and status. While it's difficult to trace the history of something so simple and concretised into human life, the bare neck chain is likely an evolution of the crucifix. Ever since Jesus walked the Earth, believers have worn the cross as a way of indicating a commitment to God and warding away evil. Think John Travolta’s Tony with a gold one poking out through his chest hair in Saturday Night Fever. Lapsed Catholics and, more specifically, Catholics who like beating people to death with baseball bats, love a chain also. Tony Soprano wears a gold St Jerome Medallion in The Sopranos, as does Steve McQueen when he plays an art thief in The Thomas Crown Affair, except his has Saint Christopher on it.
Starting with Kurtis Blow's gold chains on the cover of his self-titled debut album, rappers have followed the Greeks in using the chain as a statement of self-celebration. A form of glamour that arguably peaked with Gucci Mane’s diamond encrusted Ice Cream cone chain, the cost of which would enable you to put a deposit down on a house in Zone 1.
Nowadays, chains are worn by pretty boys as a way of hardening up their look. Keeper of Fanny Flutters Harry Styles wore a chain in his "Lights Up" video, Guardian of the Sacred Horn Timothée Chalamet has donned one in many of his red carpet appearances. Begging the question: Do you become hot after you put the chain on, or do only hot people wear the chain? GCHQ must investigate immediately.
WHAT SORT OF CHAIN SHOULD IT BE?
You have to be cool to wear a Big Chain. You cannot let the chain wear you, meaning you have to be bigger than it, either with personality or muscle. The Rock gets away with it because he is The Rock. Joey Essex looks like he’s been arrested by his chain, like the chain is taking him for a walk, using him as a footstool and making him call it "Big Daddy".
Connell’s chain is good because it’s slight, so it makes his body seem more huge. From close inspection – believe me, I zoomed – it appears to be a Singapore chain, or a "twisted curb". This is information that has the capacity to make a man 20 percent hotter. Although, I worry what would happen if all men bought one. Perhaps the hotness barometer would go out of funk, the system would break down. Faced with too many hot men, the standard would rise so high as to cease to communicate anything anymore. I dread this day.
WHAT SORT OF MAN WEARS THE CHAIN?
Not a soft boy, rather a hard but soft boy. Chain wearers are the sort of guys who think feminism means reiterating, ad infinitum, "I would never hit a woman." Who called you "double chin" for the entirety of school, but then when they sit with you on the bus on the way home they’re like "you look nice with your hair up". The sort who grew up with a mean dad, but a lovely mum. Eaten enough chicken breasts in their time to rival the turnover of the flagship Nando's. Who could pick you up during sex without you wondering if the disks of his spine might be dislodging under the weight of your flab. Who runs his hands through his hair when he’s angry and looks at the floor. Probably helps old women cross the road, even though they're terrified he’s going to mug them. Probably would be the first to sacrifice himself during a zombie apocalypse. "Go on without me!" he shouts – but you can’t, because his hotness was the only thing that kept you going. He goes a step beyond Titanic’s Jack: not only would he leave Rose the door, he would know there was space for him on it and just want to make sure she was comfy while his organs shut down.
WHAT, EXACTLY, IS SO HOT ABOUT THE CHAIN?
One does not want to over intellectualise the chain. It is just accidentally, indescribably hot. It has the same peculiar alchemy that makes women in oversized white shirts sexy. That secret potion that means Scottish accents are hot, and whose absence makes Australian ones not (sorry, I don’t make the rules). The lure of a woman’s just out the shower smell. Hand tattoos. Red lipstick. Why we like the smell of one person’s pheromones over another. But it is worth noting that, within the thin strand of silver, lies a whole sign system of power, bad boy behaviour and effeminate glamour.
On day ???? of the quarantine, with Boris Johnson’s ludicrous levels of inadequacy ensuring there is seemingly no end to this, I would quite willingly trade in my physical body to become Connell’s chain. My existence would be more noble if it were spent decorating his neck. What does it smell like up there? Peppery aftershave and gym changing rooms? Paradise?
All photos courtesy of BBC Pictures.