Earrings came in and out of fashion in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in accordance with women’s styles. For example, in the 18th century, women wore large bonnets that covered their ears. However, when women began wearing their hair upswept in the 19th century, earrings fell back into fashion. When Victorian morals overtook England in the later 19th century, piercing fell under the umbrella of vulgar practices.

The modern emergence of ear piercing in the United States didn’t really take hold until the 1950s. For the first half of the 20th century, earrings were considered uncouth by many, though the clip on variety was more acceptable. The shift for “good girls” to pierce their ears was noted in the movie Grease, in which Sandy gets her ears pierced by her not so good girl friends.

Today, the widespread popularity of ear piercing has created great commerce for earrings, which contributes to the comparative variety in design. Asymmetric double piercing and cartilage piercing have become popular, though not nearly as common as the standard ear piercing.

Ear piercing is one of the oldest known forms of body modification, with artistic and written references from cultures around the world dating back to early history. Gold earrings, along with other jewelry made of gold, lapis lazuli, and carnelian were found in the ancient sites in Lothal, India, and Sumerian Royal Cemetery at Ur from the Early Dynastic periodGoldsilver and bronze hoop earrings were prevalent in the Minoan Civilization (2000–1600 BCE) and examples can be seen on frescoes on the Aegean island of SantoriniGreece. During the late Minoan and early Mycenaean periods of Bronze Age Greece hoop earrings with conical pendants were fashionable. Early evidence of earrings worn by men can be seen in archeological evidence from Persepolis in ancient Persia. The carved images of soldiers of the Persian Empire, displayed on some of the surviving walls of the palace, show them wearing an earring.