ornaments

Some Thoughts on the Tassel Earring

Dilone in a tassel earring at the CFDA Awards.

The tassel earring: even though it is hanging from a person’s head, I want to pull on it. I sense the head will turn on like an old-fashioned lamp if I do.

The tassel earring is a slack object with a strong presence at this flicker of a moment. I looked up yesterday and we were in a siege! When did they all arrive? At any given wedding or patio party, there are so many whiskering about the shoulders. There’s a fluttering kinship between them, like starlings or Aspen trees. Are they all from the same thread spools? I want to know more!

Some of these earrings feature as many as a dozen tassels per bunch. You may not believe me, but I have seen it, it was lavender. Sometimes more tassels hang from the middle of other tassels, like they are in a continuous fountain. There may be a wormhole in the middle of the whole thing.

The tassel earring has a lot going for it, a lot of threads. It is attention-seeking and ridiculous and eccentric — which are ingredients I’m very into, when they’re used sparingly. But suddenly this summer, tassel earrings became ubiquitous, and against every odd, the unusual has been made unavoidable.

First, I want to tug at it. Second, I want to comb it. Do I want to wreak havoc or do I want to restore order? I love this question and I love that an earring is asking it. The word tassel is from the Latin tassau, which means clasp, so my impulse to grab at them is very ancient. Often, they’re in a bit of a tangle. I feel a responsibility to groom them.

I have not worn a tufted earring, but do they tickle? I am concerned for you that they tickle. Should I mind my own business? Of course, but also I feel that tassel earrings are the busybodies of the earring world, so I think they brought this energy to the space.

Because a tassel earring hangs close to where hair might be, I wonder about their upkeep. Do you untangle them? Do you accidentally scoop them into a bun and then yank your whole earlobe up? (I’ve done this before with a long earring.)

As we speak, it’s the end of graduation season, which has always been tassel season. Five thousand tassels in one hungover field! Now, you might wonder: Maggie, are these too many tassels for you? No, not at all! Graduation tassels are there to celebrate a rare occasion by being peak useless. Emerging from a flat board, like a clipboard that has a tail in the middle! Tassels work so perfectly for that job, I could cry. Their droopy sense of conflicted excitement is really fitting for that moment in life.

I profoundly appreciate a tassel on a shoe, so luxe and casual. Really into a smoking slipper on the right sort of fancy-relaxed person. I don’t conflate ornament and crime. The urge to adorn is the impulse of art! It’s a signal of your surplus energies, and what a fun thing to channel into an accessory.

The tassel’s provocation is part of its whole premise. Often on the edge of a drape in a museum or something, the tassel is a punctuation that is in disarray. As a finishing element, it’s got a lot of attitude about it, because it finishes by being unfinished. It ends, but it doesn’t. The tassel says, there can always be more chaos. Which is an important message to foreground in one’s life.

For example, last winter, my friend — who writes about dangerous women and loves an unusual pattern and lives in my favorite mismatched-candlestick apartment — threw herself a party. We drank Polomas from her large collection of vintage colored glasses, and her earrings swayed when she laughed. This is the exact micro-situation to bring out the tassel earring and let its gentle frenzy fly.

Some Thoughts on the Tassel Earring