Headphones used to be for plugging into the stereo system in your lounge, for flying planes or connecting calls on a switchboard.
Then, in the 1980s, people started wearing them outside and the cups got smaller and easier to use on-the-go. Now we workout in our on-ear headphones; we take our wireless over-ears onto planes and public transport; we use our noise-cancelling cans in open-plan offices and in classrooms when we need to concentrate.
Walk down the street anywhere in the world and you’ll see someone wearing something either in or on their ears.
Most people think of headphones as a way of listening to audio but are headphones fashion accessories, too?
How do you choose which pair of headphones to buy? Is it on the specifications alone or do you tend towards an attractive design? Do you ever match your headphones to your outfit or personalise them or wear them as an accessory in the same way you might paint your nails, put on a scarf or wear a headband?
It sounded pretty strange to us but then headphones do sit prominently on the head. For some people, looking good is everything and perhaps more important than audio quality.
Wearing Dummy Headphones to Look Good
Back in 2019, ASOS started selling earphones that didn’t work.
They weren’t supposed to work because they were just fashion accessories worn for style like earrings or a bracelet.
For some people this was ridiculous. And we can kind of see their point. You wouldn’t have a television in your house just for aesthetic value, right?
But presumably there was a demand for it.
We’ve mentioned in the past about how headphones can be used for more than just audio. Some people buy active noise-cancelling headphones and wear them without any audio playing; they want the noise-cancellation technology in order to reduce ambient noise when walking outside, working in shared office spaces or on public transport.
But would you buy a pair of headphones just as a fashion statement?
We’re not so sure that we would.
Headphones have really come down in price. You can now pick up a decent and attractive pair for less than £100 (less than £50 in some cases). Surely it makes more sense to shop for a working pair that are fashionable rather than just picking up headphones that are only designed to be an accessory.
But maybe you don’t want a regular black or silver pair of Bose QCs or Sony WHxs. Maybe you want something that more clearly expresses your personality and style.
After all, people with 20/20 vision will buy glasses without prescription lenses for style, so maybe this isn’t such a strange concept.
If you’ve seen our range of moisture-resistant headphone covers, then you’ll notice that some are bright and bold. People buy EarHugz not just for the protection it offers their headphones cushions but because they like the designs and because sometimes headphones can be pretty dull or uniform. Audiophiles might be obsessed with sound quality but some people just want to look good.
And it’s not just people into fashion. The brand of headphone that we choose can say a lot about who we are or about what we’re trying to tell other people.
For example, some people are Beats people.
It doesn’t matter that there’s no end of criticism online from audiophile communities about how overpriced they are. Users buy them because they identify with the brand and because the design is sharp and colourful and it speaks to them in a way that more traditional brands don’t.
Bose also has a very loyal community of followers that take to Reddit forums to defend the honour of the brand they identify with despite criticism about audio quality.
We like what we like, and sometimes that will be more for more aesthetic reasons than technical ones.
If you’re sinking hundreds of pounds or dollars into headphones, then you’re making a statement about yourself. You will have considered the appearance of them even if sound quality or noise-cancellation was the prime reason for buying them.
In the same way that we use clothes and cars and shopping habits to set our personalities so too will headphone purchases whether your mean too or not.
And it’s not just big headphones, either. It’s earbuds and in-ear headphones, too. Whatever you think about Apple’s AirPods, they’re something of a statement. People wear them because they’re Apple produces and because Apple is an aspiration brand that people want to be associated with. For many people, Airpods are a fashion accessory in a similar way to why people wear certain brands of trainers or boots.
Unlike the earbud that ASOS were offering last year, Apple AirPods do at least work.
Catwalks have been incorporating headphones into their runway shows for some time now. Hollywood A-listers have been spotted with custom-made headphones with price tags that would make your eyes water. We take our fashion cues from the big fashion houses and from what we see being worn at red carpet events so it’s no wonder headphones are becoming fashion accessories.
Purists would argue that it’s not what headphones look like but the sound quality and comfort they deliver when worn. But for the same reason that women force their feet into stilettos or men zip themselves into skinny jeans, people do care what they look like and what their fashion says about them.
If you wouldn’t wear certain hats because of how they make you look, then why wouldn’t you be more discerning about the type of headphone you wear over your ears?
If you’re looking to add some colour to your headphone cushions, check out the EarHugz sweat-proof collection. They fit a wide range of headphones and will also help keep moisture and stains off your earcups.
Feeling the cold when you’re out walking with headphones? EarSnugz are a furry headphone covers that act like earmuffs to keep your ears snug and cosy on winter days.
And unlike the sold-for-fashion headphones, neither product interferes with sound quality or with how the audio reaches your ear so you can stay fashionable whilst wearing your headphones.