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The fine tradition of wearing extravagant yet highly purposeful jewellery by Bart Julius Peters

There are many tales about the elaborate earrings that used to be worn by Dutch sailors. Some say their ears were pierced to improve their eyesight. Others claim the gold of the jewellery would pay for their funeral should they wash up on shore. Then there are those who say the personalised earrings were to identify them should their body be found. Whichever is true, while sailing has waned as an industry, the earrings haven’t. At least not in the small Dutch fishing hamlet of Urk, which lies isolated on the northeast inland coast of the Netherlands.

 

An island til 1939 when it got connected to the mainland by a patch of reclaimed land, the town is still steeped in tradition. One such tradition is the wearing of sailor’s earrings, modernised but still personalised. The young men photographed on these pages are all construction workers, specialists in driving piles beneath new houses, indispensable in this country that is so full of water. The earrings may seem fancy to outsiders, but to the population of Urk, they are an essential part of a man’s everyday wardrobe.

Text: Fantastic Man

Photo: Bart Julius Peters