Case 037: Pearls Gone Wildfiled July 19, 2022
Nature’s gayest magic trick is unquestionably the pearl. The humble bivalve cherishes one tiny irritant within its soft inner folds, and over years coats it with layer after invisible layer, achieving a lustrous sheen before finally offering its perfect orb to the world. That oyster shell is not so unlike the closet door. Queers know well the test of endurance, privately ingesting societal scum until they’ve drowned it all in iridescence. It’s as much a magic trick as it is an act of pearlseverance. So, it’s no surprise that after two years forced behind closed doors again, queers are bursting forth bedecked in a bounty of la mer’s milky gem.
Since pre-pandemic days, The InQueery has monitored the relentless reports declaring pearls to be “the Moment.” Moments are peculiar, they are passing. Pearls, on the other hand, “are always appropriate,” at least according to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, noted cousin to Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale.
What started with Harry Styles going down Anna Wintour’s carpet giving full Boy with the Pearl Quear-ring has led to full blown nacre-philia. Harry graduated to his now-signature strand, giving way to a burst across the chests of the Jonas Brothers, Shawn Mendes and more. Three years later and there’s no wiping away these pearl necklaces.
But queers haven’t just been baited. Donning pearls with reckless abandon couldn’t come more naturally. Billy Porter cleaned up in his pearl bib and Lil Nas X got massive pearl coverage in his Balmain suit at the Grammy’s. Just this month, Ben Platt walked Ru Paul’s runway in a pearl necklace coyly declaring, “it’s not my first.” Pearls are queer to stay, and as we head into yet another Hot Pearl Summer, if you aren’t wearing a Presley Oldham original, are you even queer?
To help our readers navigate this salty style, the Department of Moments at The Inqueery has evaluated pearl-wearing along a variety of metrics familiar to our community: length, girth, shape and number. Subtle variations allow for endless reinvention, a testament to the pearl’s everlasting appeal. From cultured to wild, here are some pearls of wisdom to help you cultivate your lewk:
A nod to the picture-pearlfect domestic queen of the 50s cultural imagination: a single strand of pearls cut close around the neck. Don’t be fooled by the prim-and-proper appearance: even church ladies get on their knees. The Douglas Sirkian energy of this style’s origins can no longer be contained. Pearlies on the go are hitting the club in their dainty chokers like Betty Draper on MDMA. Powerful modifications include increasing girth for Marge Simpson dom-energy, or length for some Carrie Bradshaw I-couldn’t-help-but-wonder.
The modality of “multiple stranding” runs deep in royal adornment. Such performative opulence has graced the necklines of stunt queens from Marie Antoinette to Queen Elizabeth II. For a look that roars regal, double-string for a Michelle Obama stately air, or take five and levitate with a Holly Golightly lewk. If you want to go scorched earth, try septupling up, à la Princess Diana’s Revenge Dress.
The classic, queered. “I saw Harry Styles wearing pearls on Instagram so I am wearing pearls on Instagram,” says Head of Moments, Reggie Russo, “And I feel pretty okay about that?” We’re just wild about Harry Styles: a single strand of 10-12mm pearls that hit 2 to 3 inches below the neckline. Not too long, not too short, not too chunky, not too dainty: the Goldilocks of baubles. The Harry subtly subverts traditional gender norms while retaining that elusive queer quality: chill fagtor.
Necklace-less? Never fear. This pearl parade began with a single earring and it continues to be shaped by the misshapen. In an increasingly artificial world, there’s never been a better time to go natural. Natural pearls, formed without human intervention, can be anything from teardrop to toothlike. Nothing says queer culture better than a single rare gem prized for luster despite its unique differences. Why string them along when you can stun them with a simple pendant or a brooch!
But no need to wait until Aunt Trudy passes to inherit your own. “Pearls are a state of mind at this point,” insists Pearl Liason-at-large, Crayton Barrow. Order yourself a Gibson and set the Martini swillers swooning as you swap out olives for pearl onions. As the martini moment and the pearl period collide, we find ourselves adrift in the queer glamour of a new Roaring Twenties. Look around you. The world is your oyster. Now is the time to get some pearls in your clutches and run free!
Queer Rating: KStew slurping pea soup.
Good to Know: To distinguish a proper sugar daddy from a placebo, get up close and rub two pearls together. Imitation pearls are smooth whereas true pearls are slightly rough. Just remember: slick is ick, grit is lit.