Why Men Are Embracing the Single Dangly Earring
Men with ear jewelry are a thing. Just ask Lil Nas X, Harry Styles and any K-pop star.
It glistens, it sways, it frames your face. It’s the dangly earring, and it’s hanging from men’s lobes everywhere.
Lil Nas X, the rapper cowboy, often pairs his fringed western jackets with a gold cross swinging from his left ear.
Odell Beckham Jr., the heavily tattooed N.F.L. wide receiver, prefers wearing a gold cross on his right ear, whether he’s in his Cleveland Browns uniform or a Thom Browne tuxedo.
And the K-pop star Kang Daniel, formerly a member of the band Wanna One, is often photographed with dangly earrings that bounce like his floppy bangs.
Credit...Evan Agostini/Invision, via Associated Press
It has also permeated internet culture, with dangly men’s earrings popping up in TikTok videos and various memes. Zach Clayton, a 19-year-old internet celebrity who lives in Los Angeles, recently observed on Twitter: “I just went on TikTok for the first time in so damn long and every dude on there has one dangling earring.”
Fashion designers have been quick to co-opt the trend, perhaps sensing that men’s dangly earrings are well suited for our nonbinary gender moment.
Dangling earrings were sent down the runway at numerous men’s wear shows earlier this year, including at Celine, Balenciaga and Gucci. (Harry Styles wore a single Gucci earring to the Met Gala in May, causing a social media frenzy.)
When paired with traditional men’s garments, the single earring can “give a subversive edge to smarter looks,” said Nick Paget, the senior men’s wear editor at the fashion forecasting firm WSGN, in an email.
Mr. Paget added that it tracks with a broader evolution in men’s fashion. “We’re definitely charting soft masculinity,” he said. “We’ve been talking for a couple of seasons about a different kind of masculinity — soft but not fragile. It’s for men who aren’t afraid of experimenting with their look and will probably have enlightened views on gender roles, or at least be comfortable enough with their own sexuality.”
It’s likely no coincidence, too, that these earrings have proliferated as social media platforms like Instagram have put focus on the face. The dangly earring is a fashion flourish that invites social media sharing.
But the single men’s earring predates social media, of course, with early examples going as far back as 17th-century England.
“There’s a real historical element to this trend,” Mr. Paget said, adding that the pearl drop earrings at the Givenchy men’s wear show last June had “a dandyish appeal that evokes the pioneering spirit of Tudor explorers such as Sir Francis Drake, reminiscent of portraits of the era.”
More contemporary precedents include George Michael’s door knocker of a crucifix, which he wore on his left ear for his 1987 album, “Faith,” and Rob Lowe’s character in “St. Elmo’s Fire,” who wore a silver crucifix on his right ear.
Unlike the 1980s, however, the current trend defies neat labels; the debate on whether there is a so-called gay ear is long over.
As Erin Schwartz wrote in GQ recently, dangly earrings are “the roller skates of ear jewelry” and “totally without practical use and extremely fun.” Likewise Brock Colyar, writing for The Cut, said, “the single dangly truly does not discriminate.”
In other words, everyone can join in the fun.
“What it means to be a man isn’t as black and white anymore as society once made it out to be,” said Christopher Morency, an editor at Highsnobiety. “At the end of the day, an earring is an earring, and with societal lines around masculinity changing, no longer is the accessory limited to one gender.”
A version of this article appears in print on , Section D, Page 4 of the New York edition with the headline: A Dangly Earring Lets Their Lobes Do the Talking