Women are giving guys 'man-gagement' rings — a move that holds major significance

Ed Sheeran has been wearing a ring on THAT finger, but it’s not what you think it is. It’s simply a “man-gagement” ring.

People noticed the wedding band-style accessory about two weeks ago, and he has since addressed it. “I never saw why men didn’t wear engagement rings,” Sheeran, 27, told British talk show Lorraine. “Cherry made it for me herself out of silver clay,” he said of his new ring, which was handcrafted by his fiancée, Cherry Seaborn. “I really like it.”

Ed Sheeran and his notable ring. (Photo: Getty Images)
Ed Sheeran and his notable ring. (Photo: Getty Images)

Nothing’s changed since he proposed: “We didn’t get secretly married, no,” he clarified on Australia’s The Kyle and Jackie O Show this week. “So we were both kinda wearing rings.”

One of the benefits of wearing an engagement ring when you’re a male celebrity is that no one will know your exact status. “It also means that nobody will know when we have got married,” Sheeran said on the radio show.

Ed Sheeran and Cherry Seaborn. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Ed Sheeran and Cherry Seaborn. (Photo: Shutterstock)

That’s not the only reason he — and other men — are wearing engagement rings nowadays. The trend has taken off in the last few years. According to a survey by XO Group Inc., five percent of engaged men are wearing man-gagement rings. And that was a few years ago; the number has probably increased since then, especially as influential people like Sheeran join in on the trend.

“There’s a leveling of the playing field,” Jane Greer, New York-based marriage and sex therapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Women are exercising more choice and control in their lives. They don’t have to wait for the man to propose and stay stuck in this limbo, not knowing if or when it’s going to happen. They are taking initiative and putting the option on the table,” she adds. “In relationships, modern women are now able to express their needs and desires more clearly — what they want for their futures, and what timing works for them. They are feeling more in charge.”

This doesn’t mean men don’t want to propose. “Men are not taking a back seat or getting lazy, but they move at a different timing than women sometimes,” Greer says. “Men look to have their careers in place before proposing, even though they’re committed and looking to marry the woman that they’re with.” So, women are thinking, why wait?

Ed Sheeran (Photo: Getty Images)
Ed Sheeran (Photo: Getty Images)

Mutual ring-wearing is most popular among couples “who are looking for more sharing and equity between them,” Greer says. “They are not bound by conformity or tradition. They are able to adapt norms to their needs rather than feeling limited by the standard protocol.”

With gender equality being a hot-button issue right now, it’s the perfect time to introduce man-gagement rings, but the concept is actually not new. In 1926, jewelers tried to popularize pre-wedding rings for men, according to the Atlantic. Companies like L. Bamberger & Co., a large department store later rebranded as Macy’s, placed ads in newspapers featuring black-and-white photos of a man’s left hand, a cigarette resting between the first two fingers and a large rock flashing on the fourth. Not to deter the manly men, the rings had macho names like the Pilot, the Stag, and the Master. However, these campaigns were unable to overcome the “ingrained femininity” of the symbol, and the campaign failed.

Still, some form of jewelry is often given to the groom at the time of a proposal. “In some circles, it’s commonplace for the family of the bride to gift the groom with a nice watch or something once he proposes as a sort of ‘welcome to the family’ and an acknowledgement of the tidy sum he has spent on their daughter’s ring,” Amy Elliott, author of the All That Glitters blog for JCK (Jeweler’s Circular Keystone) and jewelry expert for the Bridal Council, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Elliott thinks these rings might become more popular now, thanks to Sheeran.

“Ed Sheeran being the recipient of a man-gagement ring has the potential to give this emerging microtrend some extra momentum and legitimacy,” she says. “Celebrity engagements have an effect on demand. But retailers have been designing men’s styles with diamonds and gemstones for decades, blurring the lines between a traditional wedding band and an accessory that makes more of a fashion statement,” she points out. “So my guess is that you might see an increase in sales of gemstone men’s rings, which would certainly make excellent man-gagement rings.”

Some designers are avoiding gender altogether. “I have noticed some indie designers like Wendy Brandes and Jill Maurer debuting ring styles that are less cisgender in feel as a way to give people an expanded array of options that feel right for who they are, and the nature of the relationship,” Elliott says.

This does not mean the end of men getting down on one knee altogether. “The premium is still on the woman receiving the ring, because it holds a certain symbolism in being engaged,” Greer assures. Sheeran proposed to Cherry Seaborn with what looks like an oval-shaped diamond flanked by two smaller diamonds set on a white gold or platinum band. “She may give him a ring, but many women want to have a ring of their own as well,” Greer insists. So, while gender stereotypes are evolving, you likely won’t be seeing a rise in only men wearing the rings anytime soon — with the exception of two-groom couples, of course. “Either they would both exchange rings, or the woman would get the ring.”

Elliott agrees. “If more guys start getting engagement rings from their fiancées, I suspect that it will be more a of reciprocal thing — you gave me this gorgeous ring, so here’s one for you,” she explains. “The idea that the bride’s ring is a really, really big deal is not going to change anytime soon.”

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