earrings on men

The Culture of Earrings for Men

Over the past few years men have begun to wear earrings.  While that may have seemed strange a few years ago, it is commonplace now and seems to have some historical, cultural, and social basis. There are artistic and written references from cultures around the world dating to ancient times in history of men sporting earrings.

Indeed, references indicate that the oldest mummified body from about 5300 years ago demonstrated evidence of ear piercings.  Howard Carter writes in his description of Tutankhamen’s tomb that the Pharaoh’s earlobes were perforated, but no earrings were inside the mummy wrappings, although the tomb contained them. 

mer2King Tut’s burial mask’s ears were perforated and the holes were covered with golden discs. Carter felt, at the time, that the covered holes indicated that earrings were only worn in ancient Egypt by children. There is also evidence of earrings worn by men in archeological evidence from Persepolis in ancient Persia and carved images of soldiers of the Persian Empire. These images displayed on some of the surviving walls of the palace, show men wearing a earrings.

There is also Biblical evidence of earring use. In Exodus 32:1–4, it is written that while Moses was up on Mount Sinai, the Israelites mer4demanded that Aaron make a God for them (the Golden Calf). The Bible presents that he commanded them to bring their sons’ and daughters’ earrings (and other pieces of jewelry) to him in order that he might comply with their demand.  Pirates felt that piercing of the ear(s) gave them better long distance vision.  Acupuncturists will confirm that the earlobe is a site for vision so who knows – maybe the pirates knew more about vision than they are given credit for.

mer5Earrings have, over the centuries, been a sign of a myriad of things such as prostitution, wealth, nobility, slavery, keeping out demons, fertility and probably many other situations and conditions.  Downer (2016) presents that the tradition of men wearing earrings is also connected to primitive Indian tribes, who used facial piercings and jewelry as tools to modify their bodies for religious and cultural initiations and rituals.  Still used in these cultures today,  body modification is often a symbol of age, status, wealth and standing within the tribe. 

In the 1920s, it became popular for sailors to pierce their ears based on superstition. It was believed that if their bodies were recovered at sea the person finding them could take the earring as payment for a proper burial.  Sailors who had sailed around the world or survived a sinking ship also had earrings to document their experiences. Thus, the phenomena of men with earrings may still seem strange to some, but they have been worn by men since the beginning of time. 

 

Earrings & Modern Body Modification

 

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Modern body modification has taken on a more literal sense of vanity. In the late 1960s and early 70s, hippies and homosexuals adopted the wearing of earrings and the once-taboo quickly turned into a fad, catching on in the celebrity community, with punk rocks bands and athletes beginning to pierce their ears as well.  Now, 2016, especially among celebrities and young men the wearing of an earring or a stud in the ear or both ears is common. 

The local tattoo and ear piercing parlor may seem strange and intimidating to some, but certainly not to others seeking to individualize themselves and it is actually not all that strange when considering that ear piercing is one of the oldest known forms of body modification. 

 

Why Do Men Wear Earrings Today?

 

So these days why would men wear earrings?  Jain (2015) offers 10 specific reasons why men wear them:

 

  1.  A Fashion Trend.  Young men find this to be an enhancement to their looks, and is a definite fashion statement.
  2. A Religious Custom or Tradition.  In some religions such as Hindu, ear piercing for both sexes is conducted in the 4th or 5th year of life and celebrated by a major feast with relatives and friends.
  3. As a Symbol of Status or Wealth.  Some guys wear diamond studs that broadcast their wealth.  Some will even use the diamond as a savings for hard times and use the proceeds of their adornment in the event they fall on hard times.
  4. Actors in Character.  Some men are playing a role in a movie or play that requires them to have a piercing on one or both sides to fall into character.
  5. To Look “Cool” and be Attractive to Women.  Some men feel that women are attracted to men that wear earrings and it makes them feel as they are more apt to attract the opposite sex.
  6. A Gift.  Often a man may have received a gift from a friend, wife or girlfriend that causes him to get a piercing of one or both ears.
  7. Presenting your Sexuality or Making a Statement.  There are many reasons to wear earrings as a statement.  Sometimes criminals use this as a signaling process for their various capers or in pick-pocketing activities.  Though disputed by some, historically the wearing of a single earring or stud on the right ear is considered a sign of homosexuality.  In today’s society, however, it is common to find heterosexual men wearing earrings in both ears at once, as well as either their left or right alone and it is considered old-fashioned to wear a single earring as a sexual signal.
  8. mer9Therapeutic Benefit.  A closely held view among pirates was that their long distance vision was better with earrings. Although disputed these days, the lobule is an acupuncture site for vision but it is not used among acupuncture professionals for increasing vision, but more for drug dependency, eating disorders, etc.  Others also believe that the wearing of gold or other precious metal in this area transfers some of the metals properties to the person, thus offering a therapeutic benefit.
  9. Spirituality.  In some religions, such as Buddhism, the piercing of the earlobe and stretching of the opening is considered a sign of spiritual development and spiritual development.  The bigger the opening the greater the spiritual development.
  10.  To Rebel.  Jain’s final comment on the reasons men wear earrings is that they attempting to rebel against something.  Rebelling against society, parents, or just to be different and stand out in a crowd.

 

Epilog:  No matter what their reason for wearing earrings the practice will be considered by some as a statement, to others as cool, attractive, spiritual, or simply a component of your job; the practice is trendy and very common in today’s western culture. 

To those who feel that this is not really a cultural tradition that should be perpetuated, there is an anonymous quote that goes: “Respect people’s feelings.  Even if it does not seem to mean anything to you, it could mean everything to them”.

 

 

 

 

References:

Ask.com (2016).  When did men start wearing earrings. Retrieved February 8, 2016.

Downer, J. (2016). When did men first start wearing earrings.  eHow.  Retrieved February 8, 2016.

Jain, A. (1025).  Top 10 reasons why men wear earrings.  HubPages.  Retrieved February 9, 2016.

Images:

Nate (2016).  Day 25: Jewelry. Clothing concept.  Retrieved February 9, 2016.

Supernova 125 (2016). Should Men wear earrings? Retrieved February 9, 2016.

 

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About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.

1 Comment

  1. RE men wearing earrings: I’m reminded of a quip I once heard: “Men who wear earrings (get their ears pierced) are ready for marriage-they’ve experienced pain and bought jewelry!”

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