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When custom tailors talk about jewelry, the discussion is typically limited to the more traditionally masculine pieces: wedding bands, watches, signet rings, and that sort of thing. Earrings on men, however, is a trend that has come and gone with the winds of fashion. They’re making a resurgence today, so we figure this is a good time to discuss this piercing.
Please know that this post will discuss how wearing earrings can impact your personal image. We’ll talk about what’s generally regarded as looking masculine versus feminine or mainstream versus counter-culture, but we aren’t making any value judgements to that effect. We merely seek to inform.
Earrings on Men – Historical Meaning & Recent Trends
Earrings are the oldest form of body modification. Men have worn earrings in various cultures across the world for thousands of years. In fact, there’s evidence that the oldest mummified body ever discovered – Ötzi the Iceman, about 5300 years old – had pierced ears. Fashion truly is cyclical.
Depending on the historical epoch, earrings held various meanings as it related to the wearer’s image. Earrings could be signs of wealth and nobility, of a sex worker, or even a slave. European sailors in the Middle Ages would pierce their ears with the logic that if they went overboard and died, the earrings would be able to pay for a Christian funeral.
Ear Piercings Today
Fast-forward to modern times, and we don’t see earrings on non-seafaring men until the 1960’s. Even then, earrings for men weren’t part of a mainstream dress code. At the time, men who wore earrings were typically hippies or gay (or perhaps both). These images were part of the public’s perception of earrings at least through the 1990’s. A piercing on the left side was “acceptable” for heterosexual men, while a piercing on the both sides or right side signaled homosexuality. Where these arbitrary rules came from, we don’t know.
Nowadays, it’s perfectly common for men and boys to have pierced ears as a fashion statement, albeit not to the extent that it is for women and girls. Conservative men in conservative fields tend to eschew them, while less conservative men go for them. Creative types gravitate towards them, as do professional athletes.
Earring Styles For Men
There are numerous earring styles. Below, we’ll describe some different styles of earrings and some common ways of wearing them.
If you’ve ever had an ear pierced, you know that simple gold or silver studs act as a “starter set” as your ears acclimate to piercing. Studs are small earrings that don’t dangle or extend past the earlobe. Secured to the ear via a backing piece that attaches to the stick that goes through your earlobe, their presentation ranges from small and discreet to large and eye-catching.
In addition to plain gold or silver, studs in precious gemstones are classics. Diamonds are most popular, often with sterling silver backings.
A true ear-ring, men have been wearing hoops in their ears for years. A self-explanatory shape, hoops for men tend to be smaller and hug the earlobe more closely than some women’s styles, which can become so large that they touch their shoulders.
“Dangles” are earrings that do just that – they dangle below the earlobe. Women typically gravitate towards this style more than men, so most men with earrings tend to ignore them for fear of looking feminine.
While this assessment isn’t unfair, it doesn’t hold true in every case. Mr. T, whose image in the 1980’s was one of the consummate tough guy, wore large earrings that sometimes dangled.
Not an earring type so much as a style of wearing them, the practice of stretching earlobes is ancient. There’s evidence that ancient Egypt’s King Tutankhamen, the aforementioned Ötzi the Iceman, and Gautama Buddha stretched their ears.
In modern times, men stretch their earlobes for aesthetic reasons – they love the look and committed themselves to it (the effect is permanent). The look is largely associated with counter-culture: we tend to think of punk rockers and others from underground alternative scenes when we imagine stretched earlobes.
As we mention above, earlobe stretching is an example of permanent body modification. If you’re going to do this, understand that it’s a lifestyle move.
Multiple Earrings & Industrial Piercings
Industrial piercings are “two piercings in one,” wherein a bar not dissimilar to a collar bar is inserted into the ear via two holes instead of one. These cartilage piercings can of course be repurposed to house different earrings.
Ears with multiple piercings may have more than one hole in the lobe or in other areas of the ear. There’s no limit to the number of piercings your ear can have besides the size of your ear itself.
Earrings & Your Image
On paper, ears are the most mainstream of body parts to be pierced. Much like our thoughts on how tattoos affect your image, our thoughts on earrings are the same: context (that is, your audience) matters. If you choose to pierce your ears, you have a few different ways of managing how this comes across, and you should tailor this based on your audience.
If you plan to be in a situation where sartorial conservatism is warranted, – job interview with a traditional firm or a memorial service, for example – you have some different options. Understated studs or small, simple hoops can work in most situations.
If your earlobes aren’t stretched, you can opt to leave the earrings at home if you want to play things safe. If your earlobes are stretched, you might as well keep your earrings in. It’s better if a bold look presents as intentional, not accidental.
On the other hand, if you’re going to be in a more laid back setting – out to dinner, in a workaday office setting where you know you can pull it off – your selection expands. Feel free to have fun with it.
Managing Your Image
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