As with many things in today’s micro-trend environment, jewellery trends come and go, but there is one that has taken centre stage for the past few years: the curated ear. Multiple ear piercings worn with different types of earrings are cooler than ever, and they’re accessible to almost anyone, no matter your budget (or pain threshold). The best part is that the curated ear trend is totally unique to the person wearing it.
You might come across ear curation in one of many different names: ear styling, multiple piercings, earring stacks, or ear outfits. Whatever you call them, curated ear piercings are everywhere these days, especially on celebs and social media. "You only need to look on Instagram,” Natasha and Sheena Appadoo, who founded East London-based demi-fine jewellery brand Stellar79, tell Bustle. “Search #curatedear and you’ll be enveloped by a plethora of posts” — almost 150,000 total.
The same goes for TikTok. Currently, the #curatedear hashtag has over six million views on the app, and #earcuration has over 21 million views. Celebrities flaunting the curated stacked earring trend have included Dua Lipa, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Emma Chamberlain, Beyoncé, FKA Twigs, Bella Hadid, and many more.
Ear curation is an art form, and there are professionals who specialize in styling personalized earring stacks. That being said, you can also achieve the look at home. Here’s everything you need to know about how to create a curated ear, as told by ear styling experts.
What Is A Curated Ear?
A curated ear is essentially an ear with multiple piercings and different types of jewellery combined, from hoops to huggies and studs to ear cuffs. “By definition, to curate means to carefully select and organize something based on experience and expertise,” body piercer and luxury ear stylist Marilyn Mena-Scott tells Bustle. “A curated ear would be just that: A collection of jewellery thoughtfully picked out and placed on an ear in a deliberate way to achieve an aesthetically pleasing result.”
The styling of the ear jewellery is done in a very deliberate way, something that resonates with the wearer’s personal aesthetic, which means there are endless possibilities for how a curated ear could come out. "Ear art," as the Appadoo sisters call it, "is unique, versatile, and most importantly, accessible to everyone. It allows for expression and enhancement of personal style and individuality."
Social media is a huge factor in why curated ears are so popular these days, but there has also been an increased interest in piercings overall, explains Sam Hayler, the head piercer at London-based jewellery brand and piercing studio Astrid & Miyu. "Piercings have only really recently become a lot more mainstream, as the history of body piercing being entirely LGBTQ+ in origin means that it was kept in the shadows for a long time," Hayler explains.
While we consider piercings, particularly ear piercings, a part of mainstream culture that everyone can take part in, that wasn’t always the case. Of course, many cultures from around the globe dating way back wore body piercings. But in the modern Western context, it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that Jim Ward, sometimes referred to as the “granddaddy of the modern body piercing movement” by MTV’s The Social History of Piercing, opened the Gauntlet, the first body piercing studio of its kind, which popularized many modern-day techniques and jewellery designs. As a whole, body piercings were symbols of rebellion against the norm, and were thus regarded as taboo for a long time.
Now, though, multiple piercings aren’t considered subversive, but rather stylish and cool thanks to decades of subculture pioneering.
Which Piercings Are Best To Create A Curated Ear?
When it comes to creating your own curated ear, it's a very personal process. If you go the professional route, a stylist will help you envision your look. “Ear curations are usually a collaborative effort amongst the piercer (or sometimes the jewellery sales associate) and the client,” Mena-Scott says. “Personal style, favourite metals and gemstones, the client's lifestyle, [and] budget are all taken into consideration when putting together an ‘ear outfit.’”
You can also curate your piercings yourself; however, there are some general rules to keep in mind. For example, Hayler recommends never having more than three piercings done at a time, in order for the body to recover and the piercings to heal effectively.
If you're beginning with a blank canvas, there are so many options for piercings. Hayler suggests that a nice starting combination would be a couple of lobe piercings, then a conch or daith piercing. "They fill the space quite nicely, and you can dress it up as much as you like," she says.
If you find yourself getting impatient and find it hard not to get more piercings to complete your look, consider filling the spaces with alternatives like ear cuffs (Astrid & Miyu and Missoma do great ones), as well as "crawlers," which are studs that travel up the ear and take up more space. Otiumberg has some good options for this.
If you're worried about pain, it may be best to stick to lobes and use ear cuffs instead of opting for actual cartilage piercings. While the lobe piercing feels more like a sting or a scratch, one on the conch, daith, or tragus is more of a "pressure," says Hayler. However, most experts agree that if you find the right piercer, the pain should always be minimal, and it's usually worth it when you see the results.
What Type Of Jewellery Should You Buy For A Curated Ear?
When it comes to decorating your piercings with jewellery, the options are almost limitless. "It's all so personal, there's really no one way about it," says Christie Wollenberg, co-founder of jewellery brand Otiumberg. You can try just about anything, from wearing coloured huggies all up your lobes, to sticking to studs in all the holes. You can mix and match, playing with different lengths and sizes, and add in ear cuffs to give the look an edge.
You can also experiment with different styles that fit your personal aesthetic. “I love doing all kinds of stylings: big and blingy, beaded and colorful, chains and dangles, but my favorite style will always be minimalistic,” says Mina-Scott. “I honestly think it's one of the hardest styles to get right. When you only have a limited amount of piercings to work with, there has to be so much thought in every piece you choose and where you place it. The point is to make a big statement out of an understatement.”
It's also fun to mix and match both ears, something Edge of Ember founder Lynette Ong encourages, as she believes you should treat ears "like eyebrows: sisters, not twins!" And remember, even if you don’t have piercings, you can try out the look with clip-ons and cuffs.
As for current trends in the ear curation space, Mena-Scott says charms are a big thing right now. “Everyone wants a cute little dangly charm hanging off their piercing,” she says. “Charms are a great way to add a little movement and pizzazz to a plain piece of jewellery.”
However, because there are so many options, it’s also hard to know where to start. “It's easy to look at a bunch of items you think are pretty but then not know how to put them all together in a cohesive way,” Mena-Scott says. “The same way people hire personal stylists to dress them, a lot of piercers have started offering their services as jewellery stylists to essentially help dress your ears.”
But if you’re feeling confident in curating your ear yourself, go for it. One great way to get inspiration for your look is to scroll through TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest for ideas. There are also tools online that will help you to create your look virtually before committing to it — the "earring builder" by Otiumberg, for example, is a great way to try before you buy. Additionally, there are ear curation boxes and sets that can start you off with a small collection to build from. “Boxed delivery styling services like Stitchfix and Trunkclub became popular over the years because people sometimes just want someone else to help them narrow down and pinpoint a style for them,” Mena-Scott says. The same goes for earrings.
The major learning curves that come with at-home ear curation, as Mena-Scott explains, are not only sourcing quality jewellery, but also figuring out what kind of earrings look good on your ear canvas — because not everyone’s will look the same. “I think what folks struggle with the most is picking out jewellery that flows together and fits your anatomy well,” she says. “I would say taking a picture of your own ear to be able to look at it objectively is a great way to get an idea of how pieces might fit.”
All in all, though, curating your ear jewellery should be a fun extension of your own personal style. If you do want professional guidance and styling, that’s available, too. Happy curating!
Natasha and Sheena Appadoo, founders of East London-based demi-fine jewellery brand Stellar79
Marilyn Mena-Scott, body piercer and luxury ear stylist
Sam Hayler, head piercer at London-based jewellery brand and piercing studio Astrid & Miyu
Christie Wollenberg, co-founder of jewellery brand Otiumberg
Lynette Ong, founder of Edge of Ember
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