According to the New York Times, beginning in the 1960s, gay men sometimes wore single earrings in their right ears to indicate their sexual preference. As more men began to pierce their ears, the symbolism of the pierced right ear began to fade.

By the late 1980s, teenage boys pierced their left ears as a fashion statement, leaving their right ears unpierced in acknowledgement of the gay-related symbolism involved. By the early 1990s, however, so many men were wearing piercings in either or both ears that the placement was less likely to indicate sexual preference. Since that time, piercings and other body modifications have come to be seen as fashion statements.