Like tattoos and beards, men’s piercings are no longer just for punks or Hackney art school students. As the leading actors from last weekend’s Bafta awards proved, ear piercings for men have gone mainstream: Regé-Jean Page, Paul Mescal and Colin Farrell were all photographed on the red carpet flaunting dazzling hoops and studs in their lobes, and pairing them with svelte, formal dinner suits.
There’s something uniquely expressive about a man’s ear piercing. What you choose says a lot about who you are. Take Farrell’s droopy lobe bangles at the Baftas, evocative of a notorious ex-hellraiser, or Mescal’s softboi huggie hoop, which adds that edge to his look. Elsewhere, there was Harry Styles and his single dangling pearl earring at the Met Gala. The right earring on the right man can be a subtle trademark, and everyone is getting in on it in 2023.
They’re not just for the stars, either. They’re for me — or you. When I’ve worn earrings they’ve helped me express the kind of style I’m going for, or the sort of crowd I want to fit into. At 16, I had my ear pierced with a diamante stud at a Bromley tattoo shop to achieve the 2008 Thames Estuary “boy racer” look — complete with Lacoste polos and K Swiss trainers.
Later, when I got into punk music and moved to study in France, I replaced it with a small silver hoop which seemed to suit the little artsy tribe I was in at the time.
My earrings felt like an extension of my identity, but they were finally removed after embarking on my first job at an advertising firm, at the request of my then-creative director: a stuffy, claret-jowled bloke who referred to them in childish, homophobic digs, and suggested I “smarten up”.
I’ve worn earrings only intermittently since, mostly because I got used to being without them. But when I see my ears in the mirror, that tiny hole tempts me back to what I considered a rebellious youth — when I had them pierced against the wishes of my mum, and when I didn’t much care what anyone thought about me. Except for me.
Now, even my mum’s favourite actors are wearing them. It’s a total 180. They’re no longer for people trying to make a statement or fit in, but another overdue evolution for men’s accessories. As the leading men from the Bafta celebrations prove, there’s something for everyone.