Do you know that earrings are among the oldest types of jewellery? I’m pretty sure they have caught your attention on various flamenco shows. While these days they are purely ornamental, they used to have a completely different task – earring used to be a sort of ‘identity card’ which divided people into certain groups or cultures… These days everyone can wear earrings – children and adults, gays and straights – and while some are more discreet and others more ostentatious no one can deny that they are virtually everywhere. Despite having a particular body part in its very name, earring moved to other body parts as well – brows, lips, tongue, nose, stomach and even… the genitals. Once carefully hand made with precious stones and metals, natural resources, exotic wood, today they are often mass-produced with the use of whichever material someone chooses - be that a creative director of a fashion house or a simple artisan...
Earrings were familiar to Sumerian queens and warriors and equally appreciated by Egyptian rulers who would wear jewellery with precious stones to highlight their power and wealth. While in Ancient Rome slaves would wear them, in Ancient Greece they were attributes of prostitutes. What’s even more interesting - over the centuries earrings were reserved for men. You can spot them on portraits of numerous French rulers, eg. Louis XIV (Sun King) or Henry III of France - enthusiast of ruffles, lace jabots, ribbons, decorative buckles and jewels for whom an earring was a perfect complement to his abundant clothing.
When it comes to the shape - hoops were among the most basic and oldest earring types. Although a couple of years ago deemed cheap and basic, they are now gaining more traction. Film and music stars have always had a soft spot for hoop earrings which prompted fashion and jewellery designers to keep on creating new shapes and materials. Besides traditional bigger and smaller circles, you can now find elliptical, square or deltoid earrings, sometimes with an extra twist or additional metals and stones.
Hoops are also associated with the popular depiction of gipsies and flamenco dancers - and some dancers do choose to wear them on stage. Their popularity within the flamenco world can also be attributed to the omnipresence of a circular shape. After all, the most popular flamenco pattern is polka dots.
After a couple of years in oblivion, hoops are making a triumphant comeback. Fashion designers, stars and TV series are helping them regain the title of a fashionable accessory. In 2001 Sex and the City’s costume designer Patricia Field gave hoop earrings to the series protagonist - Carrie Bradshaw. And just like that… A similar situation occurred in 2015 when Ricardo Tisci - the head designer of Givenchy - showcased his “Chola Victorian” collection, which featured interpretations of door-knockers… If you haven’t seen it yet - then what are you waiting for? It is truly something!
In the 20th century, earring found their way to high society and beyond. Their comeback is often attributed to Paul Poiret - a French fashion designer. What did he do? Well, he started dressing his clients in clothes inspired by Oriental culture complemented by earrings. This fascination was broken by the first world war, but in the 20s rich people fascinated by art deco started combining precious materials with artificial materials and worthless trinkets. Just as today…
Do you know that most of the jewellery appearing on flamenco stages is made of plastic? This material allows them to fulfil one of the basic prerequisites crucial for dancers - lightness. And when it comes to colours, shapes and forms - there is only one rule: the more, the better. There is no need for any colour coordination - colour craze is what the flamenco world is looking for. Also, earrings often allude to the gipsy influences in flamenco.
Plastic gave way to a new era for earrings in dancing. After the times of heavy metal jewellery - now the new material released artists’ imagination from any constraints. You could find very light and highly ornamental earrings adorned with flowers, fringe or ruffles. Plastic can be manufactured in every colour imaginable - which was not possible with metals. Dancers can now match their earrings to their dress, shoes, flowers or strive for contrast and choose big green earrings to a red dress. Such detail can bring out the colour of the dancer’s clothes, single ruffle or hem and completely transform her outfit.
Today earrings play the part of an eye-catching accessory. And they perfectly complement each flamenca’s outfit - both her “private” one and her “stage-worthy” one. Right earrings can bring out natural beauty, grab the viewer’s attention and add sparkle - and let’s not kid ourselves - sparkle is what virtually every flamenca loves.
You can look for earrings at street markets, or you can choose something from renowned designers. Lately, there is an increased demand for handmade earrings produced by small artisans - not too expensive but definitely unique. In Spain, flamenco dancers often go to Chinese shops, so-called “chinos”, to look for earrings. Those who wish to spend more on their jewellery go for gold and silver earrings often encrusted with Swarovski crystals. You can spend anything between 5 to 500 euros on flamenco earrings. But remember - if you want to dance in them they need to be light and comfortable!