The other day I was chatting to a friend outside her office when her boss strode past us – an impossibly chic woman in her late 40s. Wearing a tailored overcoat, sleek leather boots and holding a designer handbag, her look was finished by a trio of teensy diamond studs dotted up each ear lobe. The effect? Dazzling.
Over the past few years, the trend for wearing mismatched studs and dainty hoops in multiples has gained serious momentum. A lobe speckled with several earrings – preferably in gold and diamond – has become a must-have accessory. Coined the ‘curated ear’, the trend even has its own Instagram hashtag with more than 50,000 posts featuring bedazzled-ear inspiration.
While the look had grown with trendy 20-somethings, it is now fashion-conscious women in their late 30s and 40s dominating it. Sporting sophisticated curations comprising two or more piercings placed anywhere from the lobe to the helix (at the top of the ear), the ‘midlife and multi-pierced’ are on the rise.
‘Mid 30s to 40s is a key demographic and represents about 50 per cent of our clientele,’ says Maria Tash, founder of the eponymous luxury piercing studio which helped the multi piercing trend take off, and who counts Gwyneth Paltrow, 47, and Uma Thurman, 49, among her celebrity fans. ‘These women want to do something for themselves – that feels empowering,’ she explains.
‘It’s a “quiet rebellion”,’ says Stacey, a fashion director from Northwest London who got seven piercings when she was 41 as a way of defying the stereotype of how women should look at a certain age. ‘We can begin to lose a sense of self. We become mothers, wives or bosses and forget who we are.’ It’s a sentiment shared by Lucy, a mum of two from Hertfordshire, who got a second piercing in both ear lobes when she turned 47. ‘Knowing you have multiple piercings feels a bit rebellious,’ she says. ‘I’m approaching my 50s, but I’m still stylish.’
Indeed, where middle age used to mean cardigans and sensible shoes, we are in an era where women are tearing up the fashion rule book. If Jennifer Lopez can walk the Versace catwalk in a split-to-navel dress at 50, then what’s a new earring or two? ‘It’s a way to express yourself and a push back against the idea of becoming responsible and sensible,’ explains psychologist and author of The Imposter Cure Dr Jessamy Hibberd – also a midlife multi-piercer.
Rebellious though it might be, this isn’t about chasing youth, but rather a devil-may-care frame of mind. ‘I have “older” female clients who were afraid of what others would think if they got additional ear piercings but now they are more ready to own it,’ says Nicole Mitchell, resident piercer at London’s premium parlour Sacred Gold where midlifers account for 70 per cent of clientele.
The trend for women getting multi-piercings is nothing new. Paul R King, founder of the association Body Piercing Archive, tells me that the practice has been popular among subculture communities since the mid 20th century. ‘Visual evidence shows that in the 1950s and 60s women in the UK, Australia and major cities in the US with multiple ear piercings were frequently associated with tattoo communities. In the 70s and 80s this expanded to punk, new wave and artist groups.’ However, King explains that it wasn’t until the noughties that it became a mainstream trend, aided considerably by the rise of Instagram. ‘Social media showed consumers all over the world what was possible.’ With celebrity and influencer feeds full of diamond-dazzled ears, the pull of a multi-piercing has never been greater. ‘Seeing the model Laura Bailey rock several piercings was my style inspiration. I hadn’t thought about having multiple piercings before then,’ says Stacey.
What’s more, the current crop of luxury piercing salons has introduced beautifully designed ear jewellery made from precious metals and gems which are high-quality enough to be worn in new piercings straight away. ‘I was excited to get my piercings done as I love how delicate and pretty ear jewellery is now,’ says Ruth, a 45-year-old senior consultant from Bristol, who got three additional holes in her lobes in which she wears tiny hoops that hug the earlobes (known as huggies) in fine gold and diamond.
From ruby stars to tiny opal-encrusted rings and sparkling diamond studs, the high-end offerings make for a more sophisticated appeal. ‘It’s a simple pleasure – something to wear that makes you feel good about yourself,’ says Dr Hibberd. ‘I have many clients who get piercings to mark particular events in their life such as a promotion or celebrating a big birthday,’ adds Nicole Mitchell, who offers custom and bespoke fine ear-jewellery designs for her clients. ‘Who doesn’t want more diamonds?
The stylish interiors, highly trained staff and impeccable cleanliness that come as standard in upmarket piercing salons also make for an elevated experience: ‘I went to Maria Tash in Liberty London and it was lovely. The staff were great and helpful – it felt like a real treat,’ says Beth. However, not every midlifer opts for the premium experience: ‘I went to Claire’s Accessories on impulse and queued up among all the teenage girls while they laughed at me,’ says Lucy.
Samantha Hayler, the senior piercer at chic salon Astrid & Miyu, recommends doing your research first. ‘Make sure you pick a place that you’re comfortable going to and make sure you are happy with the jewellery they have on offer as you’ll likely have to wear it for a few months while your piercing heals.’ She also advises that a pared-back curation – such as a couple of lobe piercings and a discreet helix stud – has a smarter, more professional appeal. ‘It’s about not making it look too busy. A good piercer will be able to advise you on the placement of the jewellery based on your ear anatomy and your lifestyle.’
If you’re looking for inspiration, Tash says that several high lobe piercings (a look favoured by Gwyneth Paltrow) and multiple piercings in the rook (an inner section of the ear) are currently the most popular, while the versatile diamond eternity rings are one of her top sellers as ‘they go with anything and can be worn almost anywhere on the ear’.
Ultimately, ‘there are no rules – be brave and do it!’ says Tash. Though a word of caution from Stacey: ‘Never ever have both ears pierced at the same time. My husband rolled his eyes at the sight of me having to sleep on an inflatable travel pillow.’
The piercing hotspots
Where to wear them… and what to expect
Clockwise from top: multicoloured hoop, £300 for one, and purple sapphire hoop, £400 for one, robinsonpelham.com. Blue stone hoop, £35 for one, missoma.com. Multi-sapphire hoop, £300 for one, robinsonpelham.com. Bar, £75 for one, tadaandtoy.com. Circle, £21 for a pair, estellabartlett.com
Pierce and love
From hoops to helix huggers, here’s our pick of the prettiest – and sparkliest – ear candy.