As diamond and jewelry experts, readers have asked us if earrings are unprofessional. While we all want to look our best at the workplace and maybe even distinguish ourselves as the resident fashionista, not every workplace is receptive to earrings.
But how can you know if earrings are unprofessional? Certain styles of earrings are unprofessional, such as massive hoops and gauges. Having multiple piercings can also be deemed unprofessional. Every company has a different stance on what types of earrings are unprofessional, how many earrings can be worn, and who can wear earrings at work.
Though this answer is subjective, keep reading as we show you our top tips for finding out if earrings are acceptable to wear at your job, how to keep wearing your favorite styles, if men can wear earrings professionally, and discover just why we love earrings so much.
Is it unprofessional for men to wear earrings?
Yes, a man with ear piercings can be deemed as unprofessional. Today, men still face stigmas when wearing earrings because of their “femininity.” Instead of earrings, men are encouraged to wear accessories reserved for men, such as cufflinks and tie bars. In “professional” companies, a man wearing earrings can be perceived as flamboyant, lax, immature, untrustworthy, or unperceptive to the expectations of their job.
Despite the growing social acceptance of men wearing earrings, not all companies find men with earrings professional. While you will not likely see earrings on a powerful CEO, most salesmen, or members of Forbes 40 under 40, earrings can be worn on men in less formal work settings such as creative positions, clothing stores, cafes, and restaurants and/or jobs not requiring interaction with a customer such as manufacturing, manual labor.
Unfortunately, people DO judge a book by its cover. In a professional environment, when dealing with clients and customers, you do not want to lose a sale for your company due to their bias against your physical appearance. When it comes down to your personal sense of style and it having a negative effect on the company you work for, don’t put yourself above the company, put aside any self-importance, leave your earrings at home. Remember, they hired you to be a part of their machine and to make them money. You must maintain the company’s image above your own.
If you are ever unsure if earrings on men are acceptable in a professional setting, you can ask upper management or HR whenever possible or go without wearing them for a few days and observe if any of your male peers wear earrings.
Is it unprofessional for women to wear earrings?
Unlike men, women are free from any earring wearing stigma. Women should have no issues wearing earrings in the workplace. The only possible exception is if the job is physically intensive and there is a chance that your earrings can become stuck or get in the way of your work.
Not every earring style is professional. As a rule of thumb, it is best to avoid the following earring styles:
- Sizeable hoops
- Chandelier earrings
- Large gauges
Are multiple ear piercings unprofessional?
If you usually wear enough piercings to set off a metal detector, cut down to wearing just one or two sets of earrings at work. Too many earrings, as well as unconventional piercings, such as an orbital and forward helix, are not suited for professional workplaces.
How to wear earrings professionally
There are plenty of ways you can wear your favorite accessory to work and maintain your professionalism:
- If you are attending an interview or starting a new job, you most likely will not know the company’s stance on earrings. Your best option is NOT to wear earrings to a job interview or on your first day on the job or wear something subtle like studs. You should always speak with your company’s HR department to learn what styles and number of piercings are appropriate. You can also take notice of what other staff wear, such as their number of earrings, location of the piercings, and style of earrings worn.
- Not every pair of earrings in your jewelry box is going to be suitable for work. Tasteful diamond studs, classic pearls, and huggie earrings that rest close to your earlobe ARE generally appropriate in most office settings.
- You will also need to keep the location of your piercings in mind, while a standard lobe piercing IS acceptable, a more exotic rook or industrial piercing can earn you unwanted attention and criticism.
A brief history of ear piercings.
Earrings have been part of society for thousands of years and hold great cultural significance. From status symbols to fashion statements, and rites of passage, earrings have shaped cultures and enabled people to stand out.
When the Iceman mummy Ötzi was uncovered in the Ötztal Alps during the 1990s, we marveled at his pierced and stretched earlobes dating back to 3300 BCE. Nearly 2,000 years later, King Tut had earrings sealed within his tomb alongside his most prized possessions.
Ancient Roman, Greek, and Egyptian men and women wore earrings as status symbols. In the late 1500s, ear piercings were a trend for the nobility during the English Renaissance. Distinguished men such as Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh wore gold, stone, and pearl earrings.
Countless tribal societies across the world pierced their ears and other body parts ritualistically. Sailors across time celebrated the completion of a great adventure with earrings and believed that the piercings would improve their eyesight at sea.
Despite their ties to affluence, pierced earrings fell eventually fell out of favor. According to author Ronald D. Steinbach, “Although females in all parts of the world had pierced their ears for many thousands of years, the custom gradually died out in the United States beginning around 1880. Woman wanted the right to vote, to wear pants, and be freed of wearing impractical clothing, and of barbarous customs such as ear-piercing (which males did not have to undergo).”
From the 1920s to the 1950s, clip-on earrings were favored in America for not having to actually penetrate the skin. Actual piercings were considered rebellious. Think back to the sleepover scene in Grease where Pink Lady Frenchie wants to pierce innocent Sandy’s ears and the movie’s final scene when transformed greaser Sandy is revealed sporting hoops.
Members of the 1960’s counterculture, such as hippies, are to thank for the revival of pierced earrings. Since there was no professional outlet at the time for piercings, girls would throw piercing parties and pierce each other with the help of ice, knitting needles, and a potato to keep the piercing held. Luckily for us, professional piercings are easily accessible and that earrings are free from their dated stigmas.