Ear Stretching: Now and Then

Stretched Ears in Ancient History

Ear stretching is an ancient tradition that has been practiced by many cultures across the world. In some, it was meant to indicate the strength and ranking of men in a tribe: the larger the bone or piece of wood, the higher their importance. For women, ear stretching typically signaled a girl's arrival at womanhood and maturity.

In some tribes it was purely a practice of beautification. The stretched earlobes were a sign of beauty and decorative jewelry was proudly worn. Still other cultures stretched their ears for religious purposes. The Mayans believed that leaving spacers in the ear were a way to let the spirits into the body. The two oldest documented cases of ear stretching are Ötzi the Ice Man in 3300 BC and the Egyptian King Tutankhamen in 1323 BC. While the practice of ear stretching has dwindled in many of the tribes in which it originated, it is still practiced today in modern culture.

The Modern Practice of Ear Stretching

Today, ear stretching also known as gauging, is practiced mostly for beauty and aesthetic, but there are also still those who use it for spiritual or ritualistic gains. The practice has grown in popularity since the 90s and recent trends have edged it into mainstream fashion for the teenage and young adult generations. Members of many of today's popular alternative bands have stretched ears, which probably contributes to both the allure and the popularization of the look among the younger wearers. This isn't to exclude other age groups by any means. Many of the pioneers in the early days of ear stretching are all grown up and are now large lobed adults and even parents! Historically, the goal was to have very large stretched ears. Now, people wear varying sizes to their own preference. There is also a much more diverse selection of jewelry that can be worn now.

Plugs & Eyelets

Jewelry for Stretched Ears

The jewelry worn in stretched ears are generally referred to as plugs. The most popular materials for plugs are stone, steel and other metals, silicone, wood, acrylic, bone, and even glass. The organic materials are often favored because of their natural look. Glass and metal offer more flash, while silicone plugs are all about comfort. Regardless of the material chosen, a person's character and style can be uniquely accented with the perfect pair of plugs.

As a cautionary final word, ear stretching is a delicate and permanent process. It must be completed with care to avoid damaging the tissue. Check out our Ear Stretching Guide for useful information and tips.