Thursday, July 9, 2020

Men and Wedding Rings – The History Behind the Tradition.

June 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Opinion, Relationships, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.comWhen it comes to dating in the real world, a quick glance for a ring is a check most of us make when we are single and meet an attractive person. While it isn’t a foolproof way of determining if someone is available, as plenty of people in relationships aren’t engaged or married, a good man won’t make advances when he sees a ring. Generally, we assume women do the same thing, because these days, it is pretty common for men to wear wedding bands (and engagement rings), but actually, the male wedding ring is a fairly new tradition.

In addition to this, while a woman can, of course, choose not to wear a ring when she gets married if she wants to, it is seen as far more unusual for a woman to make this choice than a man. In fact, quite a lot of married men don’t wear wedding rings, and for a number of reasons.

Here, we look at men’s wedding rings as a concept. How did they first become popular, and why are they still not as ubiquitous as wedding rings for women?

    1. The First Wave of Men Wearing Wedding Bands

Unless you’re over a certain age, you’ve probably grown up with it being fairly accepted that both men and women get rings when they marry. However, there is a huge difference between the genders in terms of how long this has been a thing.

Wedding rings on married women are believed by historians to trace back at least as far as ancient Egypt, and have been used throughout the centuries by cultures all over the world that have either monogamous or polygamous marriage within their normal societal structures.

Wedding rings for men, however? They weren’t really seen until the mid 20th century. Indeed, senior citizens alive today; who married before that, often don’t have rings, and if they do, they likely purchased them later in their marriages as the trend turned into a normal thing.

The Second World War was thought to herald the start of men’s wedding bands, as a lot of cultural shifts took place in the countries strongly affected by the war. However, many historians have deemed that men started to wear rings (and other jewelry) around the 1970s. Why? This was when men’s jewelry, in general, became more popular in places like the USA and the United Kingdom.

This was thought to be the influence in fashion terms of continental Europe, where in countries like Italy and France, men were already more prone to wearing jewelry for decoration. Other cultures had male jewelry traditions too, and of course, even ancient civilizations were apt to adorn important people with medallions and other jewels regardless of gender. However, fashions for male jewelry inspired by history or traditions native to other parts of the world didn’t start to appear until a little later, towards the end of the century.

    1. Aside from Fashion, Why Else Did Men Want to Start Wearing Wedding Bands in the Mid 20th Century?

Although trends were really the key driver in terms of why men began to want to wear wedding rings, there were a few other factors at play at that time that gave the fashion a good environment to become a mainstream thing for men to do.

On the one hand, there was a strong women’s rights movement during that period, where women were campaigning for greater equality in lots of areas. Many men were supportive of their wives and girlfriends wanting to be treated as equal members of society, and bringing equality to the wedding ring issue was a step couples could take to show that they were equal partners in their relationship.

There was also the more practical matter of the shift in how men began to work after the war. During the war, with many men sent away to fight, wearing jewelry was far from a practical thing to do. So as men in the decades that followed began to increasingly take on more ‘white collar’ work, for instance, in the growing technology industry, wearing rings was something they could do without risk. Naturally, many men had jobs where wearing jewelry could be dangerous or unhygienic, but of course, this was also the case for women, and so people who wanted to wear wedding rings simply took them off for work, rather than forgoing them because of health and safety concerns.

Some believe there was also a more sentimental shift at that time. Many people had lost loved ones in the war, and many communities were still rebuilding in the ’60s and ’70s. Perhaps people began to treasure their relationships even more at this time, and felt that celebrating them with something symbolic like matching rings was a nice thing to do.

For other people, it may simply have been a status symbol. As the economies in the Western world began to boom in the ’80s, it was fashionable to show off wealth and power. While it may be cynical to say that men at that time wanted to show off their wives themselves as symbols of their personal value and success, the idea that in an age of sports cars and power dressing, wearing an extra piece of jewelry might have been just another way to display wealth is not such a strange one.

    1. Men’s Wedding Rings – Still Very Much a Matter of Personal Choice

You may remember a couple of years ago in the UK, the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. However you feel about royal families, there was certainly no denying that at that time, they were considered extremely fashionable people, and as marriages go, this was the most talked about of all the celebrity unions. Prince William, however, chose not to wear a wedding ring. While his father, Prince Charles, who is now on his second marriage, does wear a wedding ring, his grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh does not. This may say something about how the idea of jewelry as a status symbol or opportunity to display wealth has faded, given that few have the traditional status of a future king, and the man who is quite literally married to the queen of England.

In fact, a lot of people don’t wear wedding rings out of preference, from celebrities through to your married friends and family. It seems to boil down to a relationship’s personal preference.

The most common reason given by men for not wearing them is simply that they don’t really like wearing jewelry. Some find jewelry gets in the way and is annoying to wear, while others think it is a little too flash or a bit feminine. Prince William gives this reason too, reportedly saying he is just not a fan of jewelry.

Another common reason is the one of practicality, with men who work with their hands or in more rugged environments preferring not to wear a ring as it could get caught on something and injure them, or may just get lost or damaged in the course of their work. Titanium wedding rings are pretty resistant to damage and look great. As discussed, there is always the option – also used by women who do similar work – to take off the ring for work, but if the man in question is also not especially used to wearing jewelry he may prefer just not to own one, rather than having to remember to keep it safe and put it back on all the time.

Some people will, however, view an absent wedding ring as a person being unfaithful, with the intention to cheat. Men may call these women cynical, and vice versa; yet, there is evidence of married individuals doing just this. People may speculate that simply removing a wedding band makes the above accusation invalid, however, it happens. Before the wedding, you need to ensure the both of you have discussed your wedding band options; and if you are unable to reach a happy medium, not pursue the wedding until the matter is sorted. You may not like wearing a ring; however, if it keeps your other half happy, what’s the problem? If it’s the issue of wearing jewelry, then consider other alternative options such as tattoos. There are plenty of ways to express you love one another.

It seems, however, that mens wedding bands are definitely here to stay, and if anything, trends are moving in the direction of more people opting to wear wedding bands, or if not, have bands tattooed around their wedding fingers. Either way, traditions don’t always work for everyone; make sure you find a wedding band which suits you and makes you happy. After all, it should be on your finger for the rest of your life.

Naturally, everything about a marriage is unique to a couple, but it is interesting to see how we think about men wearing wedding rings has changed in not much more than half a century. Wear them or not, wedding rings are beautiful and really do show a couple’s unity.

Staff Writer; Craig Barker

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