Sometimes, simple is best. Take the Jean Ring, for instance: it’s a twist of metal. That’s it. Nonetheless, it has also notched up more than 3 million sales since its debut in 1975. The solid brass twist securely holds your keys on one side and clips onto the belt loop of your jeans or pants on the other. Nothing fancy, but customers constantly rave about the gizmo.
One woman sent the company a photo of her husband’s Jean Ring, which he’s had for 30 years. Its previous owner? Willie Nelson, she says. Her husband inherited the Jean Ring upon buying a car from Nelson when he lived in Texas. Now he needs a replacement, but he certainly won’t be trading in his old one.
Marc Weinstein is the man who can take the credit for the key ring’s success. He came up with the idea while he was designing a metal sculpture for his “Marc Creates” company in St. Louis, Missouri. The Marc Creates website explains, “The first Jean Rings key rings were twisted by hand. Hand-forged on an anvil, these ‘original’ Jean Rings are true collector’s items. The way to identify them is that the logo ‘Marc Creates’ will be stamped on one end.”
These days, the company keeps up with sales by manufacturing Jean Rings in the Midwest on a “fore-slide” machine, but the original design still rules the roost. Part of its appeal is nostalgia — some customers remember their dad using a Jean Ring and want to become a part of that experience. Another draw is the quality. The Jean Ring comes with an impressive guarantee: “Solid brass. Guaranteed not to break or wear out for life. Chrome finish only guaranteed for 90 years.” In fact, if your ring does break, you’ll get two new ones when you return the broken one. “I have only received four in 27 years,” Weinstein reports. “That’s good quality, but bad for repeat business.”
The Jean Ring holds 32 keys (more than most of us usually tote, we wager) but don’t try to stretch that number, or you’ll void the warranty.
Over the years, the company has offered various versions of the Jean Ring. Currently, you can buy it in the traditional brass with either a chrome or a clear protective finish. They come in the classic curved style or “DeHart,” which takes on an angular heart shape.
One model comes with a whistle, and another features two rods with balls on its end to make the whole shebang easier to find if you’ve thrown it in your purse or bag. This version is also handy when you’re scrabbling for your house keys in the dark. Fancy a swivel feature? There’s a “Finger” Jean Ring for that convenience.
The company website doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it tackles various urban myths that surround the Jean Ring. Our favorite? That the ridging on the ring is either braille or Hebrew. The truth? “When the key ring is flattened out, the ridges are a bunch of numbers and letters stamped into a stamping dye,” the company explains. “When the key rings are made, this jumble imprints onto one side of the Jean Ring. They don’t mean borscht.”
Of course, you can always make up your own story when people are admiring your Jean Ring.