Where did earrings originate?
Earrings are a popular fashion accessory mostly worn by women. Ears continually top the list of most popular body parts to pierce, and earrings are available in all shapes, sizes and budgets. But did you know that earrings have a long and rich history dating back almost 7000 years? Used as signs of status and wealth, they have fallen in and out of favor with various classes over the centuries before becoming the generic and mainstream fashion accessory that we know and love today. But have you ever stopped to think about how, where and why we suddenly decided that putting metal through our ears was a good idea?
Here is everything you need to know about the origins of the earring and how they have changed and evolved in meaning over the centuries.
Although earrings are more popular with women today, historically they were favored by men. This is largely due to the fact that they were seen as status symbols and an indication of wealth. Because men were usually more rich and powerful than women throughout history, it makes sense that they would want to showcase their status through accessories such as earrings and other clothing. Archaeologists have found evidence that men and children wore earrings in the Persian and Ancient Egyptian eras. In fact, there is even mention of gold being worn through the ears in the Bible!
A fall from grace
Although earrings were undoubtedly a sign of wealth in certain cultures, there were also periods of history where they were worn by the lower classes, too. In ancient Rome, they were worn by slaves. In Ancient Greece, they were worn by prostitutes. They were also used to convey parentage in young boys. For example, the son of a single mother whose father had been killed at war may have a singular ear piercing. If the boy was the only surviving male left in the family, he would have both ears pierced to show that he was the last male in the family and therefore couldn't go to war for fear of his family name dying out. In this respect, it was a highly useful, and one may even say a life-changing display of status.
Within the Catholic church, ear piercing was frowned upon as it was believed that one should not voluntarily alter the body that God has given them. However, sailors who often died at sea would wear gold earrings as a means of payment for a proper Christian burial should it be needed. That said, the rejection of piercings by the church made them appeal to the so called "rebels" in society, such as thieves and pirates.
In Europe and the U.S. in more contemporary times, earrings have fallen in and out of fashion in accordance with other styles of the time. For example, in the 18th century, women often wore bonnets that covered up their ears so the piercing was deemed unnecessary and was relatively unheard of. Fast forward to the 19th century when up-do hairstyles were popular, and this became the perfect opportunity to showcase one's ear decor again. Used as an accessory to complement an outfit, elongate the neck or sharpen the features, they became popular once more among the classes. Even so, ear piercing didn't really become commonplace in the U.S. until the 1950s, and even then, it was still viewed as being rebellious and rather vulgar - the realm of rebel girls rather than well-behaved ones - as depicted in the popular movie Grease when Sandy's "bad girl" persona is characterized with leather clothing and big, gold hoop earrings, similar to these Secret Box Open Hoop Earrings.
As the years have moved on, ear piercing has become more commonplace and rarely has either positive or negative connotations anymore. It's a standard piercing choice for males and females and now includes other parts of the ear, such as the cartilage, tragus or double piercings. Other body parts now tend to be pierced for those who want to create a more self-expressive look. Lip piercings, for example, are popular with goths, and belly button piercings are stereotypically seen as sexy and feminine. Standard ear piercing, however, is still the most popular piercing choice by far and just goes to show how this popular fashion statement has evolved over the years. It has been through multiple classes and cultures, had several different meanings and connotations, and continues today to be highly fashionable and common.