An eclectic blog about beads, beading and beyond

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Earrings, gender and a little history

Prompted by a comment by a friend at lunch recently and some recent sales of earrings at the local market my goal this week is to have 20 pairs of earrings listed for sale in my online Etsy shop. I’ve begun listing and I’m hopeful. I've featured my Sassy Seahorse earrings in my Etsy mini. In the process of choosing which earrings to list on Etsy I’ve been wondering how earrings came to be. Earrings have been found in ancient cultures in the Middle East and Western Asia. It appears that hoop and pendant earrings may have originated in the Middle East around 2500 BC and pierced earrings can be found in ancient Egypt around 1500 BC. The gold earrings in this picture are from Brooklyn Museum collection of ancient hoop earrings. The oldest earrings discovered to date were found in the graves of the Iraqi royal family from this era. It seems that men, particularly soldiers, wore these early earrings.

In ancient Indian cultures men can also be found wearing wonderfully elaborate earrings. In the western world by the 20th Century earrings were no longer seen as the province of men although they did become permissible for women soldiers in the USA to wear. A report in the New Times in 15 Sept 1983 headed, ‘Army Women Prevail On Earrings on Duty', reported that:

"The Army has decided that women in uniform may wear earrings as long as they are not gaudy and ''fit snugly against the ear.''

Since 2500 BC earrings have come in and out of fashion and have been worn by both men and women over that time. For instance, in the 1920s sailors who had survived a shipwreck typically wore a gold hoop to symbolise their adventures at sea.

It’s odd with such a gendered history that earrings in the 21st century are so strongly associated with women. What a fun world it might be if more men took up earrings again. It’s hard to imagine the armies of the world expecting them to wear them as part of their uniform but given the huge range of shapes, colours, materials and sizes that earrings are made from perhaps men should be encouraged to reconsider adding earrings to their wardrobe. They can be fun, fab, dramatic, colourful, weird and wonderful just like their history.



Dawn N said...

Thanks for the earring history lesson. Good luck with your 20 pair challenge.

Rose Works Jewelry said...

Next time my Mom comments negatively about a guy wearing earrings I'll have to point out that historically men have worn earrings just as much as women! LOL One of my best guy friends has an earring. I've known him for 10 years, and I wasn't sure what I would think of it when he got it, but it looks really good on him :)

Mortira said...

I agree, men should start wearing earrings again! Jewelry doesn't suit all guys, but I do love the pirate-look of a man in big hoop earrings. Although, I prefer glass to silver or gold.

Mary T Designs said...

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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