Why don’t men wear engagement rings?

In the mid eighteen-hundreds when the engagement
ring tradition first picked up in the United States, some men sported them. But it didn’t
take long for engagement rings to become a woman exclusive piece of jewelry. In the nineteen twenties, nineteen twenty-six
to be precise, American jewelers got together and figured out a new strategy for maximizing
their bottom line. Sell engagement rings for men. In order to make this happen the jewelry
industry had a few major marketing hurdles that it had to overcome. Much as it still
is today, engagement is something that happens to a woman by virtue of a man presenting her
with a ring. Marry me Suzie! Who’s Suzie? On top of that wearing jewelry and rings was
something considered feminine. It wasn’t until even the nineteen forties that husbands began
wearing wedding bands. What this national campaign to sell men’s engagement rings was
tasked with was creating an entirely new tradition that in no way would threaten the masculinity
of these future husbands of America. So you see examples of advertising tactics selling
these rings as a way for guys to elevate their masculinity. A knight riding off into battle,
while wearing an engagement ring. Jewelers touting the fact that their men’s engagement
rings were made from manly materials like iron and bronze. Men’s ring styles were even
given names like the pilot, the executive, the stag! [Cough]. But what the jewelry industry
didn’t anticipate were a couple of fatal flaws that doomed the men’s engagement ring campaign.
Market research had also found that if a guy found out that his fiance was going to buy
a ring for him he would have put a stop to it. It was often left up to her to guess his
ring size and the style that he would like because again if she asked him what kind of
ring he would like he would probably say, ‘The only ring I want is no ring honey.’ ‘But
Sam.’ ‘Who’s Sam?’ Gender roles were still very much entrenched to where women were in
control of childcare and the domestic, men were meant to go out and work and then probably
afterwards simply socialize with his male buddies. While securing a woman’s hand in
marriage by giving her a ring was something to be proud of, being given a ring by a woman
and signifying to the world that you were about to become someone’s husband not so much.
Pretty soon thereafter the jewelry industry figures out that the male engagement ring
campaign is a total flop. And once the great depression happens they simply refocus their
energies on the bridal market. Now to understand why most American men today still don’t wear
engagement rings, it’s helpful to look at why they began wearing wedding bands in the
nineteen forties and fifties. Post-World War II prosperity and it’s attendant migration
toward suburbia along with the rise of what’s called domestic masculinity and the companionate
family set the social stage for what were called double ring weddings. Weddings as we
would think of them today wherein both the bride and the groom are given rings to put
on. While the American jewelry industry and advertising certainly played a role in selling
wedding bands to me, it was also our culturally evolving idea of what a husband should be
that helped cement that new tradition. The ideal married man was more domestic and companionate
than ever before and so it made sense that he would wear a wedding band symbolizing his
connection not only to the marriage unit and his wife but also to his family, to his house,
to the suburban ideal of post-war America. When it comes to engagement rings the heterosexual
dating script that leads up to marriage hasn’t really changed all that much outside of well
Tindr and texting. Men still do a majority of the asking whether it’s for a first date
or for someone’s hand in marriage. Even though you see jewelry companies today every now
and then trying to push mangagement rings, it’s not so common. Will it ever be? Guys
do you want engagement rings?

Michael Martin

100 Responses

  1. I was engaged years ago (the relationship didn't work out), but I didn't have any problem wearing a ring. I am allergic to metals, so my then-fiance made me one out of hemp. The only comments or remarks I received about it were positive. I'm sure some folks had other opinions, but those weren't shared with me.

  2. hm… i think i will make it known to my significant other that i do not want an engagement ring if it ever comes up. If I do get one though, I definitely do not want a diamond. Why not save that money for a house that both of us can enjoy? Why not use that money to invest in our future rather than on jewelry to impress family and friends? actually, just propose with some tickets to a vacation for 2. shared experience is a great way to start a marriage and is much more meaningful i feel

  3. well here in egypt and i think the middle east in general men and women wear engagment rings women's are golden  and men's are silver ..they wear it in the right hands if they engaged and when married they switch it to the left hand even some weddings have a some sort of ceremony for the ring switching from the right to left hand  😀

  4. engagement rings are over priced trinkets anyway. If I ever plan on marrying someone, I'm going to tell him upfront: Don't waste your money, lets go out to eat or something instead.

  5. I'd just get them made out of titanium-Steel.
    No sense in wasting money on expensive metals and useless jewels if you aren't gonna wear em. (Engagement duo rings

  6. I'm Brazillian and here both use an engagement ring (which we call "engagement alliance"). Unless she is the one proposing, the woman doesn't usually give the ring to him at the proposal, though. The most romantic or traditionalist couples exchange the rings with a few closest of family and friends gathered, in a semi-formal little party or dinner.
    The guy's engagement ring is almost always a plain silver, gold or platinum band, on the ring finger of the right hand, ALWAYS the right hand for engagement. It's exchanged by a gold band (rarely a white gold band) on the ring finger of the left hand at the wedding cerimony, always the left hand for marriage.
     This way you can get the marital status of any given man or woman with a glance. Some people here get really angry if you ask someone with a ring on the left hand if he/she is married.
     I got very confused when I first watched a foreign movie in which a married woman had the ring on her right hand, I tought it was a hint to something I wasn't geting or that she was, for some reason, trying to pretend she was engaged and not married, mwahahaha.

    Sorry if my English went a little too basic or even wrong at places, it's not my native language.
    Great series of videos, by the way.

  7. I'm finnish and here both men and women wear engagement rings. They're usually identical and simple looking. When we get married we get different rings but sometimes men choose to wear the same (engagement) ring when they get married. Women on the other hand always get a new and a much more expensive ring with more details. I didn't even know men don't wear engagement rings in other countries.

  8. Wearing rings is kinda annoying at work. Also I would not want an engagement ring from my partner, if she should actually ask me to marry her. It is a dumb chlichee and one should actually go with the times, but meh. Ain't nobody got time fo that.

    In all honesty – I think a gift as an engagement token is a nice thing and could go in each way. Rings are very… medieval from a today's point of view. There are more creative ways to express your feelings towards your significant other.

  9. as a gay man, both yes and no. i hate wearing any kind of jewlery BUT i would like to be given a token of engagement.

  10. my boyfriend asked me to marry him and used the promise ring he gave me which i hold so sentimentally dear. so i gave him an engagement ring instead. (he never takes it off)

  11. If men wanted them, they would have them.  I don't even wear my wedding ring.  My wife picked out her own ring and wears it when she wants, which is mostly when some bitchy females would judge her for not wearing it. If she didn't want one, I wouldn't have gotten her one.  Stupid superstition this Patriarchy business.

  12. Men generally haven't worn rings for fairly practical reasons. For working class men rings can get caught in machinery, causing injury or becoming damaged. For those in jobs where hygiene is essential like doctors, vets, and those in the food industry rings can harbour bacteria and for those in military service they reflect light and can give away a position. In the case of engagement rings, making two people each spend 3 months salary on a pair of rings before they can even consider getting married would do more damage to the traditional family unit than an entire rainbow army of homosexuals in their most flamboyant assless chaps. 

  13. My fiancé HATES jewelry. In fact, when I met him he didn't even want to wear a wedding ring, though he was looking to get married. When we got engaged I let him know that it was important to me that he symbolically let everyone know he was 1) married and 2) loyal so now he is ok with a wedding ring because it's important to me. but he would never let me talk him into an engagement ring, so I find this video quite fascinating.

  14. kind of surprised she didn't bring up gay engagements and how gay men have started proposing to each other. With gay marriage, maybe the man-gagement ring can finally become a thing.

  15. So, here's a question, if it becomes the norm for both men and women to receive engagement rings, what about the other partner? I never thought that the reason men don't wear engagement rings is, so it seems, because they are usually the one proposing, so they are then giving a ring to their partner, and not my original thought that it was just a societal norm that women wear rings, men usually don't. I'm not opposed to proposing to my boyfriend, if it ever comes to that, but I have also always liked the idea of having a ring myself, preferably he being the one to give it to me. So how would that arrangement work, assuming the other partner wants a ring as well? Would society just find a way?

  16. Im from Argentina and the tradition here is different. Both men and whomen wear engagement rings and it isn't even that common to engage. I never heard of someone propossing like they do in american movies. It's ussualy a dessicion that the couple makes together, and sometimes there is an engagement party and rings but i think most of the times people just make plans and get married.
    Also engagement rings look basically like marriage bands though i think they are made from cheaper materials

  17. Then again, this standard no mangagement ring thing is such a heteronormative idea. Gay men wear mangagement rings a lot, one or both of them (usually the one that had been proposed to).

    Then there's lesbian couples as well.

  18. My ex and all of his family and friends wear/wore engagement rings when they got engaged. In some cultures, especially his Middle Eastern with Russian minority roots, men do wear engagement rings. They put them on the "other" hand before the wedding, and then switch it to the "correct" hand after the wedding. Obviously, wealth has something to do with this– you need to have enough money to afford not only one (for the woman), but two rings (one for yourself as well). That's actually probably a big part of it; they all seem to buy more impressive male engagement rings with each new engagement, as if to broadcast to society that they are doing well. It also shows that they can provide for their soon to form new family. I think it's mostly in Western cultures that men don't wear engagement rings, but again, it's just pockets of some cultures (and you/your family has to be able to afford it).

  19. All the men in my family are all laborers i.e. they work outside on machinery or in construction and coincidentally wedding bands are safety hazards. The wedding band can get caught and their entire ring finger will be spliced off. My father quit wearing his wedding band years ago and him and my mom have been together over 20 years. Obviously a wedding band is a nice thing to have but most men really suck at wearing jewelry. If you care about your woman and are faithful that should be all that matters. I dont really see the point in men wearing a wedding band.

  20. I'll be honoured to have the woman I love to give me an engagement band. That way she knows I will not meet another woman at all to fuck (unless it's her). A woman asking a man on a date or marriage is a reverse of gender roles in this case. I have yet to see a man walk down the aisle with a torch in his hand to symbolize a new beginning in his life as a husband.

  21. In Argentina both people are supposed to wear engagement rings, usually made of silver. And they're usually just bands, no stone involved.

  22. Actually, once I asked my dad why he has a ring and my mom doesn't. He said he had one, but he didn't like wearing it because he was afraid he would lose it.

  23. I have never heard of a man having an engagement ring (only wedding bands) before but I have wondered why in the past. My thought was that guys didn't ave an engagement ring because guys are the ones that ask the girl anyways so… how would he get one? Like, after he asks her? Or if the woman proposes? Idk. lol Never had too much thought about it. It just kind of is what it is haha I also think that the ring being a hazard in the work place makes 100% sense. It would be dangerous to have jewelry while working with machines or outside, which is probably the reason they didn't wear them.
    I would like an engagement ring just because of tradition. However, opposite of tradition, my dream engagement ring would have a pearl as the main stone. No diamond! Diamonds on the side as an accent maybe. I REALLY hate the gigantic, gaudy, over-done diamond rings. They are SO ugly! Just thinking about them make me want to puke. Something small, simple, subtle, and not expensive would be wonderful.
    However, if the ring is not possible, who cares? I'd just be happy he wants to marry me and me him lol

  24. A better question is Why do men buy women rings? Men usually get an "I do" and women get an expensive ring. I think we should do away with the ring thing. Wedding are for women anyway.

  25. I got my fiance an engagement ring and gave it to him after he had given me mine. He loves it and wears it all the time. I didn't think it was fair that I would be the only one getting something nice to show for our commitment. If relationships are supposed to be 50/50, then why do engagement traditions still have to be one-sided?

  26. I gave my husband an engagement ring after he gave me one. He has it put up somewhere and just wears his wedding ring.

  27. in my culture we both wear engagement rings, men just wear a plain band, also we buy our rings together because when we date the end goal is to get married anyway, so a proposal is never a surprise. we also wear our engagement rings on our right hand untill the wedding day when we move them to the left, like the Greeks.

  28. I'll happily wear a wedding band, sure.  But engagement ring?  No thanks.  Just doesn't sit right with me, and I wouldn't appreciate being given one.  With women, the engagement ring connects with the wedding ring.  I'd just end up shelving mine after getting married and receiving my wedding ring.

  29. My wife got me a ring when we were engaged, and I wore it as a "mangagment" ring (spell check says that's not a real word but forget about it). It became my wedding ring after I gave it to the Maid of Honor who then gave it to my wife to give it back to me during the service, but I already had a tan line by that time. Anyway, I don't really think there's anything strange about engagement rings for men, and I sorta liked mine when I was engaged because I liked it. It made me feel special.

  30. Are engagement rings really still a thing in the US? I may be wrong, but in France I don't think many people get formally "engaged" beside maybe some religious people. Maybe I'm too young to have friends considering marriage though, at best they're getting civil partnerships. I'll see when I get into my late twenties…

  31. My husband wanted an engagement ring. He was just as excited as I was that we were going to get married and he wanted to advertise it. In fact, on the way back from the canyon where we got engaged, we stopped and bought him a cheap little magnet ring off a street vendor. It didn't take long for it to break, but I bought him a nicer one (it even matched mine) and did my own goofy little proposal to give it to him. His brothers made fun of him for wearing an engagement ring but could never quite articulate why they found it worthy of mockery.

  32. After my fiancé and I got engaged. His friends at work were asking " where's yours?"
    His work friends are quite a bit younger than he and I; so to us this seemed like a foreign concept. The idea of him having a ring to signify that we are engaged and he's off the market, intrigued him. So one Saturday we went out and he picked out an engagement ring for himself. After I bought it we stood in the store and I said
    "Will you marry me my love?" .. Of course he said yes and I put a ring on it 😉
    He loves his ring, wears it all the time and gladly flaunts it . I'm really glad we went the unconventional route on engagement rings. It seems much more special.

  33. I don't even want to wear my wedding ring. I work in the oil and gas industry and a ring is dangerous.

  34. I'm glad men want an engagement or wedding ring. I for sure will be getting my future love a ring, whether he wears it or not. I want him to have something to show for our commitment.

  35. Hi there, I really enjoyed this video, and i was wondering if you could do another one on the practice of 'stag' and 'hens' nights, and the culturally acceptable (encouraged?) trend of strip clubs and private sexually-themed performances or activities for the respective parties on these occasions. It seems confusing to me, why would that be acceptable behavior just before 'tying the knot' when its generally considered a bad (or terrible) thing to do when your in a committed relationship, as it kind of implies a lack of respect for your partner?

  36. To those worried about men wearing rings in the workplace, I got a special ring specially made for me for my 18th birthday. I have fluid retention in my fingers and they can get really puffy when it's hot and I am also really good at losing things, so I just wear it on a chain around my neck. This works well, as I can just tuck it into my shirt whilst at school.

  37. I had no idea men weren't supposed to get engagement rings. Guess that's why women don't propose? But then what happens when a man proposes to another man? Who wears the ring? Is there no ring? Maybe this is the confusing stuff the homophobes were talking about…

  38. I asked my man out on our first date. Though it was more along the lines of "hey, we've got friends in common, maybe we should meet and hang out for half an hour"

  39. I'm a gal, and I don't want a stinkin' ring, either! In fact, my husband and I have somehow been married 20 years without either of us wearing any sort of ring.

  40. I wouldn't want one, but then again I wouldn't want to wear a wedding ring either. I find wearing rings in general annoying. If I were to ever get married I'd just get it tattooed on.

  41. I didn't know that guys didn't wear engagement rings. I mean, heck quite some months back a guy I know got engaged to his GF of 5 years and they both got engagement rings.

  42. My husband very specifically requested an engagement ring when we were getting close to being engaged. HE thought it was ridicules that women got something and men got nothing. So while I was down in Mexico for my 18th birthday I had one specific quest: find an engagement ring. I ended up having it made from a silver ring, placing 3 square (on end like a diamond symbol) fire opals flush into the metal and engraved between them was "Friends * Partners * Lovers." He's very fond of it even now but it's interesting to note that I personally didn't want to have 2 rings so he gave me a custom pendant which I wear every day 8 years later.

  43. my grand father can't wear his wedding ring any more becouse they had to cut it of at the emergency room after his finger stuck .michen

  44. for me, both my mum and dad wore an engagement ring. the believed that an engagement ring is just that, a ring to show one is engaged. my mum also proposed to my dad, as well as asked him out and asked him out for their first dinner. my mums a more of a, get what I want person

  45. Rings can be downright dangerous for men to wear. My parents have been married for almost 50 years and in that time my dad was an Air Force officer, machinist, mechanic, Fire Chief, and safety service officer. He never wore a wedding ring and even after retiring still doesn't. An engagement ring would be just as strange and would do nothing to further validate my parent's relationship. Buying overpriced trinkets as external symbols of internal commitments is stupid.

  46. In Germany it is traditionall that bride and grom pick out engagement rings together. Both of them wear these on the left ringfinger as a symbol of love and commitment. Those rings are as simpel as the wedding bands but with the posibility of a small simpel dimant in the womens ring. Also the engagement is something both decide together and it is not just the man having to ask.

  47. Rings make working with your hands dangerous. Combine that with gendered definitions of what work to do, and it's not surprising.

  48. I've got my hands on a 1900's book, sort of How to get a girl guide, and there's this paragraph(rough translation ):" In this important act of engagement it is fiance's duty to buy a ring. Fiancee also gifts a ring to her beloved." funny thing it also states that one must not under any circumstances buy a diamond ring, because it'll bring bad luck and tears to the relationship.

  49. I thought men did have engagement rings. This is news to me. There's 3 right. Engagement ring, wedding ring, and the wedding band right?

  50. I know I’m like four years late to the party, but when I’m engaged, I want an engagement ring (I’m a guy)

  51. I got my fiancé an engagement ring after we got engaged. I ran it by him, asking "if I got you an engagement ring, would you wear it?" He said yes if it was something simple looking, he prefers nothing flashy. So I got him a ring that's a simple silver band on the outside, but the inside surface has iridescent colors. He loves it.

  52. A guy friend of mine proposed to his girlfriend and… we were afraid she'd turned him down when we visited and he still had the box and the ring. But he was over the moon.
    Beaming, he told us that she would only wear a ring saying "spoken for, bitches!" if he did too, so they were going to go ring shopping for him later.

    I found it adorable, probably because of how happy he was. It felt like "promise ring, leveled up" in a way.

  53. Never understood engagement/wedding rings, or weddings in general, to be nothing more than forced consumerism.

  54. Female privilege prohibits men from receiving expensive jewelry from women. He is suppose to pay for the woman's ring, and rather have him buy a ring for himself (that would be selfish) the extra cost involved simply was added to even more extravagant rings for only women. Make it real. Men like gold, diamonds, etc also, but it's a privilege women have demanded for themselves. That's why Liberace was so funny, it was a big FU, as he unapologetically bought diamonds and gold jewelry for himself, something a straight guy would never be allowed to do.

  55. Never wore a wedding ring during my long term marriage she didn't care which was fine with me. I didn't need a ring to know I was married. Either you have morals or not. I was engaged and had a ring for marriage but it never made it to marriage. So I have one sitting at home. I flew airplanes and we were not allowed to fly with rings on. Today I would wear a wedding band for the woman I love (assuming I find one) if that is what she wanted….

  56. What's up with the book in the background titled "Atrocities"?
    And why is it in a video about marriage?
    Gee, I wonder….

  57. When my fiancé and I got engaged, I got a ring for myself! I’m a man jewelry kind of guy, so it definitely doesn’t feel weird to me.

  58. When I got married I got a wedding ring. The fourth time my ring got smashed onto my finger, I stopped paying for the ring to be repaired. While working in emergency medicine I grew to dislike ALL jewelry. I've seen all types of jewelry cause permanent damage.

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