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I Only Want to Own Tortoiseshell Accessories

Only part of the author’s vast tortoiseshell collection.

Did you know that tortoiseshell cats (called “torties”) are almost exclusively female? Some other little-known tortie facts: They often have hot-tempered personalities (called “tortitude”), and are considered tokens of good luck in Ireland and Scotland.

In a way, you could call me a tortie: I anger easily, have two X chromosomes, and decorate myself more or less entirely with tortoiseshell-patterned accessories.

I always have. I bought a set of tortoiseshell barrettes from J.Crew in elementary school, wore tortoiseshell glasses through high school and college, and have delighted at the recent spate of acrylic tortoiseshell accessories: earrings made by designers like Alexandrine Paris and Jennifer Matchett, a tortoise version of the perennially popular Cult Gaia bag, and tortoiseshell patent-leather slides from Maryam Nassir Zadeh.

A tortoiseshell pattern is adaptable: It enhances the studiousness of a pair of glasses; the elegance of a hair clip, the charm of a set of flatware, the cuteness of a cat. And it’s timeless, too: A recent Christie’s sale included 18th- and 19th-century tortoiseshell lighters, hairbrushes, bangles, and brooches; a recent Need Supply email blast listed a tortoiseshell toothbrush, hairbrush, and pair of teardrop earrings.

Below, a few of my favorite 2018 takes on the century-old pattern.


Parcelona French Large Celluloid Claw

This is a very cute thing to throw in your hair when you’re wearing a simple outfit.


Koh-I-Noor Jaspé Natural Bristle Toothbrush Soft

Guests will think, Even her toothbrush is elegant, when they use your bathroom.


Sun Buddies Courtney Sunglasses in Blonde Tortoise

Just great sunglasses. And Sun Buddies are extremely solid and long-lasting.


Cult Gaia Acrylic Ark Mini in Tortoise

It must be that tortie luck! This Cult Gaia bag in tortoise is 30 percent off.


Melissa Cosmic II Sandal

My colleague recently became enamored with these cool sandals. It’s set off a bit of a chain reaction.

Maryam Nassir Zadeh Lauren Tortoiseshell Patent-Leather Slides

Or you can try the slightly splurgier — but on sale! — MNZ sandal.

Reading glasses

Eyebobs Spank Me 45mm Reading Glasses

My dad swears by Eyebobs. When I asked him where he first found the brand, he said, “Canada.” No further explanation.


L. Erickson Skinny Mini Hoop Earrings

A cheaper alternative to MNZ or Bird.

Fortune Tortoise Kate Hoops

The aforementioned Jennifer Matchett hoops.

Bird Medium Square Hoop Earrings

But if you have to have them.


Tsubota Pearl Tortoise Lighter

And this. This lighter was in our 2017 Gift Guide, and I’m still completely obsessed with it.

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I Only Want to Own Tortoiseshell Accessories