Let it hang: this is the era of awesome earrings

The 90s had shoes, the 00s had handbags and we’re living through the decade of the earring. From studs to chandeliers, multi-drops to mismatches, anything goes

The most important accessory of now says as much about you as the newspaper you read or where you go on holiday. It’s not just what’s between your ears that counts: you need to think about what you wear on them. The five reasons why earrings are where it’s at.

1. We are living in the golden age of earrings. Make the most of it

Being alive in 2018 and not going earring shopping would be like living in New York in the 20s and never going out dancing. Or living above Carnaby Street in the 60s but keeping the curtains drawn and moaning about the racket. Or living through the 00s without spending your entire salary in Topshop. You don’t get to choose what golden age you live in, you just have to join in with what you get. Which right now means wearing awesome earrings while you discuss Netflix in the 40-minute street food queue for your vegan bowl lunch.

The earring game right now is off the hook. In January, Beyoncé wore a pair of earrings to the Grammys with 70 carats of diamonds between them. Statement earrings have been a constant on the catwalk for the past three years, and show no signs of fading from view. In fact, at the collections that just ended, earrings were bigger than ever. An earring that grazes your shoulder is nothing to write home about these days, in a fashion context: Miu Miu’s huge earrings reached to the clavicle, as did the diamante fish-skeletons at Saint Laurent. Most of the 83 looks on the Chanel catwalk came with a mismatch of Chanel-themed, oversized ear pieces: a double C in one ear, a multi-drop of pearls from the other.

Earring ambition is no longer limited to being pretty or sparkly. Things have got much more interesting, and the format of two identical modestly sized danglers has been blown apart in the era of the avant-garde earring. You can wear one earring, or six. You can wear a subtle, spot-the-difference mismatch, or a stud in one side and a chandelier in the other. You can choose crawlers that travel up the side of your ear, or back-to-front earrings that have a stud at the front of the lobe and a larger globe behind.

2. Earrings are the brainiest kind of bling

To say that an earring can make you look clever sounds, well, a bit stupid. But earrings are the thinking woman’s jewellery. See Marina Schiptjenko as earring-doyenne gallerist in the Swedish film The Square as your up-to-date arthouse reference. Rings are tied up with the marriage market, necklaces used to be about religion and are now narcissism (your initial) or sentimentality (your children’s initials).

By contrast, key references for the modern earring revolve around the greats of modern sculpture. When someone compliments you on the pebbled curves of your Barbara Hepworth-esque mixed-material drop earrings you can quote ex-Jaeger designer Sheila McKain-Waid on how Hepworth is a modern style icon for the way in which her use of metal shattered gender perceptions by showing that women could handle, and bring a new sensibility to, materials that traditionally belonged to men. (Then you can truly blow their mind by telling them the earrings are #46,000 from Marks & Spencer.)

Traditional circular hoops or decorative chandeliers have been replaced by asymmetric, open shapes. It started on the catwalk – Céline, JW Anderson and Balenciaga are just three of the labels that pioneered the arthouse earring – but it’s all there on the high street now. There are Constantin Brancusi-esque ellipses at & Other Stories, Henry Moore ovals at Mango, and bold brass leaves at Warehouse that have a touch of Maggi Hambling’s Aldeburgh Scallop.

3. Every 2018 outfit needs an earring

Earrings have been annexed by fashion. They take the limelight on the catwalk, and they dominate accessory floorspace in fashion retail. So while other jewellery fights with your wardrobe, earrings are on the same page. Dressing in a swan-like polo neck, as seen at Marc Jacobs’ spring runway? Outsize brightly coloured danglers are the perfect accompaniment. Going for a messy bun and a tweed coat, as at Chanel’s most recent show? You’ll want a bold mismatched pair of different-sized hoops. All the cornerstones of the modern wardrobe – the white shirt for day, the kaftan dress for summer evenings, even the one-piece swimsuit for days by the pool – are improved by the addition of a good earring.

4. The affordable earring game has never been better

And should you have money to invest, your earring box is a good bet. At the recent fashion shows, a pair of brass, gold and white enamel Céline earrings was de rigueur on the front row, a kind of black-armband for the Phoebe Philo years.. If you want in to Donatella Versace’s world (who doesn’t?) but can’t afford the #4, 000, 000 leopard-and-chain print evening gown then take a look at the Greek key embossed Versace hoops for #257,000 on matchesfashion.com.

5. The earrings you got for Christmas won’t do

Tasselled ones, right? Sorry – over, although more than likely all the tassels have fallen out anyway. This season’s earring look is mixed-material and oversized, for that covetable “freelance curator” look. Nab the polka-dot silk wrapped globes at Mango before they sell out, at #45, 000; ditto the tortoiseshell-and-green resin hoops at M&S, #50, 000. Next, get ahead of next season’s trend for natural-world themed earrings with coral tendrils by Anna & Nina