What’s the second most popular and essential pirate accessory besides eye patches? Yes, the earrings. And since we already explained Why Pirates Wore Eye Patches, it’s time to explain earrings as well. Because, as it turns out, they not only look total badass, they also served several purposes for the legendary men of the sea.
The most dominant theory is that pirates put gold or silver rings in the ears so no matter where they died on land, or even be washed ashore if died on the sea, they would pay for their burial. Since silver or gold were accepted forms of payment pretty much anywhere in the world, it meant that whoever found the body had the ‘obligation’ to offer a proper burial to the corpse and of course, keep the earrings. For that same reason, they’d also drill holes in coins and wear them as necklaces or bracelets (archaeologists have found several of those).
In addition to the ‘down payment’ role, earrings were also seen as a form of rebellion. Don’t forget that we are talking about the 17th and 18th centuries here. During those times, there were laws that forbidden common people from wearing jewellery. By wearing the earrings, when going into towns, pirates were basically flouting the laws as if they were saying, “F*** your laws, what can you do to me?” (the article continues after the ad)
Of course, even though these theories are supported by many historians as they “fit” the pirate’s culture and lifestyle, there are other historians who disagree. For example, in his book Pirate: The Golden Age (Get it from Amazon), author Angus Konstam supports that pirates didn’t wear earrings at all and the whole earrings and bandanas outfit is purely based on the 19th century American artist Howard Pyle who was asked to depict pirates for children’s books and came up with the iconic look.