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 NFL 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 K-pop stars including Kang Daniel, formerly a member of the band Wanna One, is often photographed with one (sometimes two) dangly earrings that bounce like his floppy bangs.
The trend has made its way to mainstream retailers like Urban Outfitters, which offers single earrings for men shaped like keys or safety pins for $15.
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 menswear 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 menswear editor at the fashion forecasting firm WSGN, in an email.
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.
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.”