Historical past and Hypocrisy: What the “Homosexual” Ear Piercing Means in 2022

Picture Supply: Getty / Edward Berthelot

Seldom does a trend these days stick round for longer than a couple of weeks earlier than a neologism replaces the one earlier than it, permeating the halls of TikTok or Instagram and inflicting all of us to second guess what was as soon as thought-about mainstream — solely to then swap a coveted wardrobe staple for the most recent passing fad.

Nonetheless, sure exceptions prevail. Even right this moment, one of the unshakeable cultural signifiers has been the “mono” piercing — extra preciously, and befuddling, on which ear it is positioned and what it says about your sexuality. Pre-Y2K (and past), it has been socially understood that carrying one earring on the appropriate ear means somebody is homosexual; the left, straight. Regardless of current knowledge and celebrities supporting in any other case, the demagogic proverb “Left is true and proper is flawed” has been a whisper positioned upon homosexual and straight males (and their piercers) for many years. Nobody actually appears to know the place the adage originated. Or which aspect means what. It’s, nonetheless, a uniquely American conundrum.

Lyst, an organization that tracks internet buyers’ conduct, claims searches for males’s earrings are up by 147 percent since final 12 months (see: Lil Nas X, Jared Leto, Harry Types, Dangerous Bunny). Now not is it that huge of a deal {that a} cisgender, often heterosexual man wears jewellery — not even these flashy beaded bracelets. It was as soon as much more vogue, and nonetheless is, to have multiple piercings in one ear. But additional findings, like the truth that “mono earring” queries are common, counsel many are interested in particularly embellishing one ear only — proof {that a} single earring, and which lobe it lives on, can say every little thing or nothing in any respect.

The idea of men wearing jewelry is an previous one, courting again hundreds of years. The truth is, most royals had been adorned in as many gems and as a lot gold as girls — if no more, relying on the event — making the sight of men carrying pearls right this moment, for example, extra a mirrored image of the place we have come from than the place we’re headed. However the entire “homosexual ear” factor has at all times been ironic, contemplating its ever-changing place all through historical past. It is true, although, that “dropping a hairpin” — the precursor to signaling (a option to drop a refined trace to somebody that you just, too, had been homosexual) — was each dangerous and useful. Throughout the Stonewall era, there weren’t any protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, so signaling may out somebody relying on their whereabouts. But it helped earlier generations of queer individuals discover one another within the crowd.

Picture Supply: Getty / Jeff Kravitz

A 1991 article in The New York Times perpetuating the stereotype appeared to solidify the historic rumour because the broadly recognized type taboo many cannot stop right this moment. See additionally, very well-known mono-earring wearers, between then and now: Harrison Ford, Michael Jordan, Mr. Clear, and so forth. And within the “Café Disco” episode of “The Workplace,” Kelly might be seen piercing Andy in a cutaway as he asks: “Are you certain that is not the homosexual ear?”

However within the ebook “Sexuality and Gender in Postcommunist Eastern Europe and Russia,” editors Edmond J. Coleman and Theo Sandfort focus on the truth that straight Russian males would typically mark their first sexual act with girls by piercing their proper ear as a option to beat back undesirable advances from homosexual males. And in accordance with historic Chinese language perception, the carrying of an earring on the left ear additionally symbolized that an individual’s life had been endangered, and to stop a recurrence, an earring was worn to stop dangerous luck. (China has since banned men’s earrings outright.)

Casting director and trade stalwart James Scully remembers his first encounter with the phenomenon, within the late ’70s. “As we had been driving, my mom and aunt had been observing this man out of the window, slowing the automotive down, virtually appearing like he was some type of creature as a result of his proper ear was pierced,” he remembers. Any piercing throughout that point, Scully insists, would have been an act of defiance anyway — pre- or postpunk period. “In school, Phil Oakey (The Human League) had each of his ears pierced, which actually threw individuals for a loop as a result of he was straight regardless of giving off the gayest vibe on the planet.”

Eyebrows, noses, tongues, nipples, and belly buttons would quickly turn into even louder methods to make a press release. On present rotation, Scully posits, is the septum piercing: equal components rejection and an invite, rooted in pleasure and ache. “These days, everyone seems to be too influenced. Lots of people do not know why they’re dressed the way in which they’re. What I believe is lacking with this era is that nobody has sufficient context. After I see somebody who’s pierced and I discover it horny or threatening, or it is an apparent a part of a extra distinct and complete look, I get it. However when Harry Styles does it . . . “

It is a scorching tackle a era who do not actually need an ear piercing to speak for them, who weren’t equally reared on style as a conduit to freedom. In different phrases, should you stroll as much as a younger grownup on the road and ask them who they’re, they will most likely simply let you know. A study conducted by the advertising insights agency Bigeye revealed that 51 % of Gen Z agree that conventional gender roles and binary gender labels are outdated, with 56 % of millennials believing the identical. Some individuals, nonetheless, proceed to rewrite the foundations, utilizing type as a option to reclaim misplaced time when flamboyance and enthusiasm had been frowned upon and conformity (or passing) was the one option to get by.

“I put on [an earring] particularly on my proper ear as a result of I am a proud queer individual and I need the historical past of what it means to have your proper ear pierced to be an emblem of energy, not weirdness or thriller.”

Phillip Salem, an actual property agent and longtime New Yorker, has lived in a bubble for 15 years. That’s, one of many three main US cities the place completely different walks of life are extra broadly tolerated than, say, his hometown of Akron, OH. He rocks the “homosexual earring” on the common — and on objective, a signature type cue he refers to as his “gag du jour” on Instagram — hardly ever choosing a refined trace of gold however a more-is-more method. His most up-to-date acquisition, a classic Céline door knocker, could possibly be seen from down the block. And he prefers it that approach.

“I put on it particularly on my proper ear as a result of I am a proud queer individual and I need the historical past of what it means to have your proper ear pierced to be an emblem of energy, not weirdness or thriller,” he says, including that it offers off a way of group and security, too. “This world is so f*cked up; any sense of consolation within the type of subliminal messaging or outward expression for LGBTQIA+ individuals goes a good distance in terms of feeling seen.”

Latest cultural forecasts are spot on with their predictions, too. The slow-burn comeback of the awkward noughties (frosted every little thing), indie sleaze, and social gathering women (ahem, white eyeliner) are now not nostalgic, cringeworthy recollections however reliable demi-decades when our look was (nonetheless) an act of subversion. Right this moment’s isms, like no-makeup make-up and tantouring, do not power us to relive the most effective of the worst; quite, they remind us that the journey of defining a “private” type is as finite as doing the dishes: you are by no means actually achieved.

For Salem, the “homosexual ear piercing” is a smaller but essential a part of a much bigger image. And, although influential, he would not count on designers like Kim Jones of Dior or Alessandro Michele at Gucci to push the remainder of the world over the sting. If the mono earring has at all times been a dialog starter, then we now have to handle different methods type has elicited controversy, too. Regardless of tendencies turning into extra fluid — the hole between gender-neutral types in style and wonder narrowing — Salem is aware of the journey endures.

“I discover it hilarious when individuals say, ‘Why cannot individuals simply costume like their very own gender and cease pushing their agenda on everybody?’ As a result of I can solely say the identical to so many different individuals for making an attempt to inform me the best way to costume my total life,” he says. Salem now boasts 5 ear piercings in complete.

So, what’s to be made — in 2022 — of being informed what to put on the place? Possibly the appropriate ear versus the left ear was much less about sexuality than it was about perspective. Nor was it a couple of limp wrist or gaydar. That queer individuals use style and wonder as armor or a option to talk just isn’t a brand new idea. That our sexuality, or how sexual we’re basically, might be tied to type is what’s at all times going to maintain style fascinating.

That’s Gen Z at its greatest: difficult the established order, releasing age-old narratives, and shutting the door behind them. As a result of, because the research present, it will not matter to a brand new youth who harnesses their energy in being completely different anyway.

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