It is almost impossible to see a pirate movie without seeing earrings. Naturally the question has often arisen, did real pirates wear earrings? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.
Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara
from the movie The Black Swan.
While I'm sure Hollywood was trying to make leading men such as Erroll Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks look suave and exotic, real pirates were piercing their ears for a more practical purpose. It was believed that piercing the ears with such precious metals as silver and gold, improved one's eye sight. This was the main reason pirates performed such a ritual. It must also be noted that most other sea faring men also indulged in the practice.
Still another source says they used the earring as payment when they crossed over to the next world (when they died). Now this sounds logical considering the superstitious nature of mariners but it has one problem. A fellow pirate was quick to pull your payment from your earlobe rather than send a perfectly good ear ring with you to Davy Jones.
Danny from the UK adds:
As you are aware, sailors are supersticious and religious in their own way, and they carried gold from their ear so that if their body is washed ashore, they might buy a proper Christian burial. Because of this association between the earring and drowning, it soon became a good luck charm protecting the wearer from drowning. Later, an earring in the other ear became a charm to protect the wearer against fire (which was the other great danger sailors faced).
And as always it may have simply been a "fashion statement" on the wearers part. As pointed out by many people, pirates (at least the successful ones) were a colorful lot.
The only author and editor of all pages on the site. Most of what I write about is based on years of book reading on the topic. My first web page was published back in 1994.