Earring Trends Through the Decades
Here's how our taste in ear adornments has evolved, from chunky to sparkly and a whole host of style in-between
6 February 2020
All Credits: PA
Earrings might still have their place in fashion, but they’re actually one of the most ancient forms of body modifications going, featured in ancient Greek frescoes and been found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs.
Today, ear piercings aren’t just reserved for royalty, and most women – not to mention a whole lot of men (and children) – frequently sport studs, rings or bars in their lobes.
Like all forms of fashion, jewellery trends ebb and flow – one decade we’ll be loving everything big, bold and geometric, and the next it’s all about simplicity.
So how have earring trends changed over time? Here’s a look back at the ear-adornment fashions from the 1950s to today…
The 1950s were all about Hollywood glamour, with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot ruling as ultimate fashion icons. They all oozed sex appeal, and this was reflected in the jewellery trends of the decade.
Earrings were big, glitzy and full of gold and diamonds. Small and delicate studs these were not; chandelier-style and anything fancy, feminine and dangly was favoured.
Fashion is oddly predictable; hot new trends tend to be a reaction against what came before. This is the case with earrings in the Sixties – eschewing the glitz and glamour of the Fifties, this decade was all about block colours and big geometric shapes.
At the time, Pop Art and style icons like Edie Sedgwick and Twiggy were big influencers. Women were wearing bright colours and boxy minidresses with geometric patterns – a diamond chandelier earring just wouldn’t have gone with the look, so it makes sense that jewellery trends shifted to match.
Earrings also became cheaper and more widely available around this time: Instead of being made from precious stones and gold or silver, materials like plastic, resin or Perspex were used because they could be easily mass produced.
Earrings weren’t really a huge part of Seventies fashion – instead, most women were more preoccupied with perfecting the Farrah Fawcett flick in their hair (which admittedly would have taken up a lot of time in the morning).
So earrings weren’t as ‘statement’ as they’d been in the Sixties, and when they were worn, they tended to be delicate and unobtrusive – probably a slim-line dangly style that could easily get lost in your flowing mane.
Subtle is definitely not something you’d accuse Eighties fashion of ever being, and the jewellery of the decade was no different. Think big, bold and oversized everything, chunky earrings galore. Yes, it was a return to the big styles of the Sixties, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. The Eighties favoured more gold and silver styles instead of plastic – although there’s no guaranteeing many of them were real. Fake peals and gems were also a frequent feature.
Oversized hoops were a common sight, and clip-on styles also became increasingly popular (thank goodness; some styles were so heavy they could easily leave ear lobes stretched if worn in a piercing too often).
This was also a time where an increasing amount of men started experimenting with ear piercings, with the likes of David Bowie and Boy George leading the charge.
And just like that, as the Nineties rolled in, women (and men) put away their chunky clip-ons and welcomed in a whole new style. This was the era of spaghetti straps and slip dresses – everything minimalist and sleek was in vogue.
The overriding fashion of the time was not to look too put together, so once again, statement earrings weren’t a common sight. Instead, women opted for smaller, more sophisticated jewellery – think simple studs or short delicate danglies.
Hoop earrings have a long and storied history, dating back thousands of years BC and often seen as a status symbol, and are characteristic of a number of cultures (sometimes with very important meaning attached).
In terms of mainstream fashion, they’ve been a style stalwart, sported in various sizes through the years – sometimes falling out of favour before getting big again, a la the Noughties.
Earring trends have mostly tended to centre around one piercing in each lobe. But this is far from the case now, where you’re far more likely to see people with multiple piercings in their ears.
Tragus, rook, helix, conch – there are actually a surprising amount of places that can be pierced on the ear, considering how small a surface area it is. And this trend spans generations, with everyone from Zoe Kravitz to Gwyneth Paltrow getting in on the action. To really nail this look, the jewellery needs to be kept delicate, otherwise you risk overloading the ear.