Thanks, But I'll Keep My Clip-On Earrings

"I've considered getting my ears pierced, but I’ve never liked the idea of having to change my body for fashion."

Graphic design art composed of a woman with clip-on earrings and a pair of large clip-on earrings next to her. Yellow water color element in the background.
(Image credit: Future)

When a TikTok recently went viral of Dakota Fanning’s clip-on earring falling off in the middle of a red carpet interview, I felt seen. Without missing a beat, Fanning bends over to pick up the stunning Irene Neuwirth oval pear drop set with rainbow moonstones and clips it back onto her right lobe.

As a woman with no piercings, I haven’t often seen myself reflected in the world. I’m a fashion editor and writer, and a full earscape complete with helix, conch, and multiple lobe piercings is the norm among my colleagues. Anecdotally, it seems like the majority of women I see on the street here in New York City have some type of piercing (84 percent of women in the United States do, according to a report by Statista, a data gathering platform).

Graphic design art composed of a picture of rainbow gem stick-ons, a picture of a pair of round gold clip-on earrings, a picture of a woman touching her ear. A pair of heart shape clip-on earrings with gem stones are next to the pictures.

Surrounded by gem stick-on earrings and colorful clip-ons, writer Alison Cohn didn't feel like she was missing out by not piercing her ears.

(Image credit: Future)

There’s no quantifiable reason why I’ve never had my ears pierced, besides a general squeamishness about having metal studs shot through my lobes with a piercing gun and it's just not my thing. I never really felt like I was missing out growing up in the ’90s, either. Some of my friends may have gone to the Claire’s kiosk at the local mall to get theirs done, but I filled my jewelry box with cute non-pierced options, including rainbow gem stick-ons and my beloved pink heart shaped clip-ons.

My earring options have definitely narrowed as I’ve gotten older, though, and my taste has evolved a bit since I was seven. The way Fanning’s earrings subtly shimmer like the moon’s reflection on water is stunning, but I couldn’t expect to just walk into an Irene Neuwirth store and buy them. Like most fashion and fine jewelry retailers from Maria Tash to Cartier, labels mainly cater to women with pierced ears (the post back on Fanning’s pair was specially converted to a clip for her event).

And I did have pangs of envy when seemingly every fashion girl I knew adopted the Dior Tribales studs with two asymmetrical pearls spanning the lobe circa 2013, or Charlotte Chesnais Saturn hoop earrings shaped like orbital patterns a couple of years later. I considered getting my ears pierced just to join in, but I’ve never liked the idea of having to change my body for fashion.

Graphic design art composed of a picture of a woman in a dress wearing clip-on earrings, a picture of a pair of round flower-shaped clip-on earrings, a picture of a pair of gold clip-on earrings with pearls. A pair of black tassel drop clip-on earrings are next to the pictures.

Cohn has worn a range of clip-ons from Oscar de la Renta and Dior, among other designers.

(Image credit: Future)

Sure, there are a few clip-ons for grown-ups in the market—but not a lot. Nordstrom’s website currently offers 18 clip-ons out of a total of 4,967 earring styles. I’ve mostly relied on a pair of black Oscar de la Renta beaded tassel earrings to see me through both weddings and Fashion Week. They’re fine, if a little boho for my taste. I’d really prefer something fashioned from metal with smooth curves and clean lines like modern sculpture. A lot of the time I just do without, even though I find that earrings are great for finishing an outfit. So it was with great excitement that I clocked exciting clip-on options at multiple Paris Fashion Week shows for Spring 2024, from oversized gold domes at Saint Laurent and crystal-encrusted C-curls at Alessandra Rich, to abstract gold pineapples at Valentino.

In April, New York jewelry label AGMES launched a clip-on collection featuring a handful of its cool, art-inspired earrings reworked for women without piercings. “I didn’t set out to design clip-ons, but we started receiving requests from friends who didn’t have their ears pierced, so this collection was our response to the need,” designer Morgan Lang told me. She noted that her team personally wear-tested the earrings to make sure they’re both comfortable and secure.

Graphic design art composed of a picture of a close-up of a woman wearing clip-on earrings, a picture of a pair of crystal clip-on earrings, a picture of a pair of gold clip-on earrings with pearls. A pair of metal clip-on earrings with pearls are next to the pictures.

New York City-based label AGMES introduced Cohn to some of her favorite clip-ons.

(Image credit: Future)

Lang kindly offered to loan me a pair for the New York City Ballet spring gala, and I selected the Baroque Bodmer clip-ons because I loved the way the organic wavy forms of the oversized gold vermeil base and irregular shapes of the freshwater pearl drops played off the architectural ruching of my silk dress.

For the first time since I was a kid, I felt like I could wear earrings I really loved instead of whatever happened to be available for women without piercings; reminding me that clip-ons are worth sticking with.

This story is part of Piercing Is All Grown Up, a package exploring the trends, artists, and brands shaping piercing today. You can read all five stories here.

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Alison S. Cohn

Alison S. Cohn is a New York-based fashion writer whose byline appears in The Wall Street Journal, The Business of Fashion, W, Grazia, and L'Officiel. She is the former Deputy Fashion News Editor of Harper's Bazaar and writer of Scouting Report, a weekly New York Times shopping column that ran in Thursday Styles.