Why Pinky Rings Are The Ultimate Fashion Power Move

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Angela Bassett at the 2022 Oscars.
Fashion has long conveyed power, and no accessory is more symbolic of status than the pinky ring. Worn on the little finger, the subtle jewelry staple is constantly revolving in and out of pop culture and high fashion – from real life royalty to television shows – as a signifier of class and wealth, as well as clan belonging.
It’s an accessory so rooted in status that its earliest mentions date back to Roman author and philosopher Pliny The Elder’s Natural History, the longest work to have survived from the Roman Empire. Yet, it didn’t become a fashionable item until the Victorian era when British aristocrats adopted it. Over time, figures like Franklin D. Roosevelt also wore the item. Somewhat recently, as the tales of mafia bosses have been told on screen, from movies like The Godfather and The Irishman to shows like The Sopranos, the pinky ring has become widely associated with organized crime.
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King Charles III.
Clearly, the history of pinky rings is tainted in (more than) questionable behaviors. But, growing up in Puerto Rico, they were just another accessory men wore, along with gold-plated chains and kitschy pendants. They were favorites of the men in my family: my dad, for example, had a thing for silver-plated ones that he wore with a horse-shaped pendant necklace, a staple of those who grew up in the heyday of salsa music in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Designer Prabal Gurung also grew up surrounded by jewelry-clad family members, especially men, which led him to be fond of pinky rings as an adult: “I don’t know why, I just like them.” During a recent interview, Gurung wore two pinky rings: an eternity ring he borrowed from his mother and a gemstone ring that used to belong to his great-grandfather’s house priest. 
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A scene from The Sopranos.
Yet while pinky rings have cemented their place in fashion history, most of their appearances in pop culture remain attached to men. But that’s quickly changing. Celebrities like Meghan Markle and Bella Hadid have sported the jewelry item, opting for eternity and signet versions. Angela Bassett did the thing wearing a rose-colored version for the 2021 Academy Awards. 
Photo: Marc Piasecki/GC Images.
Bella Hadid.
On screen, Emily in Paris’ Sylvie Grateau sported pinky rings for the show’s third season, conveying not only their sartorial prowess, but their symbolic power associations. Let’s recap: In this season, Grateau — a marketing executive who helmed the Savoir Agency during the first two seasons of the show — is in the midst of reclaiming her career as she launches her own agency. It’s only natural then that Grateau — styled by costume designer Marylin Fitoussi — is seen wearing pinky rings throughout the season. Watching Grateau adorn herself in this accessory reminded me of watching Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass, who also famously wore this accessory. In an attempt to rid himself of his power and wealth after being shot in season 4, Bass takes off his monogrammed heirloom, hoping no one will be able to identify him. For Grateau, the reverse happens: When she wants to step into her own power, the character relies on her pinky rings to dress the part. 
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Sylvie Grateau in Emily in Paris season 3.
Recently, after watching Emily in Paris and The Sopranos, I’ve adopted the trend myself, and have to admit the power trip is real. While I’ve never been into wearing multiple rings, sporting just one on my pinky finger — a gold and crystal watch ring from Breda — felt like a subversive sartorial play that made me gesture in ways I never had before (yes, a bit of Paulie Gualtieri energy was involved), including lifting up my pinky when drinking a cocktail. 
Much like Grateau, we all need armor to feel empowered, and nothing beats an accessory that’s historically meant to convey this feeling. Power to the people. Pinkies up.
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