This Is The Reason Pirates Wore Earrings

A pirate's costume is not complete without an eye patch and gold hoop earring, but it turns out that the earring is more than just a fashion statement. Though historians can't be sure exactly how or why the tradition started, they have several hypotheses as to why the seafarers were so fond of their bling.

One suggestion was that it was a way for pirates to ensure they could afford a proper burial. The perhaps wishful idea behind the jewelry was that if they died, the person who found them would use the earring to pay for the funeral. In fact, some artifacts even had the pirate's hometown engraved, in the hope that their bodies would be sent home.

According to Live Science, the earrings were also used as a way to commemorate sailing achievements, like after crossing the equator for the first time, or successfully navigating the notoriously treacherous waters around the southernmost tip of South America.

Old wives' tales also popularized the practice of the hoop earring, with rumors suggesting that it could cure seasickness or offer a form of mystical protection for the wearer. The earrings also had a practical benefit, as they could be used as a way to help stuff pirates' ears to protect them against hearing loss amid cannon fire.

However, the chief reason appears to be one of financial protection

Pirates are not known for their gentlemanly behavior, and it seems likely that they wore earrings and other forms of jewelry as a way to protect their assets against theft. After all, it's a lot harder to steal a hoop earring than a purse. In fact, much pirate jewelry was made from coins that had holes drilled into them so that they could be worn as accessories. "They'd wear it on their wrist, or around their neck so that no one could steal their purse. [Archaeologists] found quite a few of those [pieces of money jewelry]," explained pirate historian Gail Selinger, per Atlas Obscura.

One other added benefit of wearing earrings was that it was a way to protest the ruling classes. During the golden age of piracy, several laws prohibited the lower classes, and especially men, from wearing jewelry. "It was a legal way for the ruling class to separate themselves from commoners, by regulating what they wore," Selinger noted. "Pirates basically gave [these laws] a, 'to hell with you!'" she added.

Leave it to pirates to create an 17th-century form of trolling — and look good while doing it.