Men have long sported pierced ears, although the style is seen as flashy in some circles. Although some have assigned different meaning to sides and placement, men and earrings are usually simply just an expression of personal taste and style. There are fewer styles deemed suitable for men than for women, but that changes with the times and fashion trends of the day.
According to Painful Pleasures, "The ear-lobe was probably man's first attempt at body piercing due to the ease with which it can be pierced." Gold hoops were used as both currency and fashion accessories, with males in ancient Egypt and Renaissance Europe sporting the jewelry. In the past, metal jewelry through the ear was thought to protect the wearer from bad spirits, as well as ensuring long life. These long-standing customs show why silver and gold hoops are the most popular male earring style.
Male earrings are meant to show masculinity; therefore, many are strong and simple in appearance. As mentioned before, small silver or gold hoops are the most popular, with some men opting for spikes, plugs or double-ended barbells. Male jewelry may be styled in pairs or as solitary units, with small gems, semiprecious stones, charms and symbols added to the design. Adventurous men often try something a bit more bold and get spacer plugs instead of normal earrings.
Spacer plugs are round, doughnut-shaped jewelry pieces that stretch and fill the hole. Over time, the wearer may graduate to larger jewelry, or may keep the smaller spacer. However, there is the risk of long-term distension with spacer jewelry. As the earring graduates in diameter, the earlobe loses its ability to return to its original size; to return to an average-size piercing, the wearer may have to get the excess earlobe skin removed surgically.
Industrials and Other Ear Jewelry
A men's piercing doesn't have to be confined to the earlobe. Men also get other types of earrings. An industrial piercing is a bar at the very top of the ear inserted through two holes about 2 inches apart. For this, the piercer uses barbell jewelry; the bar usually isn't changed or removed once inserted. Another piercing is the tragus, which is the small hillock of cartilage in the middle of the ear. Tragus piercings usually have a small hoop.
Materials and Shape
There is a wide range of materials for men's earrings, though not as wide as those for women. Most male jewelry is manufactured in gold, silver, platinum or titanium, with a small percentage created in piercing-quality plastic. Those with plugs and industrials often stay away from silver due to infection and oxidation concerns, but may use silver for earlobe jewelry. Men's earrings may look more angular than women's and often don't have the same backs. Instead, the jewelry will open and close on a hinge, locking into place.