Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

The Men's Engagement Ring Fail of 1926

The year was 1926, and jewelers were looking to sell a newfangled kind of ring for a newfangled kind of guy: the engagement ring for him. American jewelers had already invented a whole catalog of made-up milestone rings to sell, such as "sweet 16" rings for girls. But they also knew weddings were where the real goldmines lay, and with the tradition of gents buying engagement rings for their best gals firmly cemented since the mid-1800s, the industry set its sights on something for the groom-to-be.

advertising campaign

probably-diamond ring

signaled power and sex appeal

Hence, men's engagement ring ads showing a gallant knight galloping into combat sporting a handsome ring and references to the ring recipient as a "he-man," repeatedly hammering home the point via imagery, copy and even the rings' manly materials, such as iron and bronze, that the man's engagement ring hearkened a marital tradition -- albeit completed fabricated -- of masculine heroism.

These days, some jewelers are advertising like it's 1926 and trying to revive the idea of a "mangagement ring" as a symbol of 21st-century gender-egalitarian marriage, but until the heterosexual dating scripts that still tend to crescendo in an engagement that happens to women by virtue of a fella proposing and presenting a ring, it's doubtful that men will be demanding en masse for women to put a ring on it anytime soon.

Source: "A 'real man's ring': gender and the invention of tradition." Howard, Vicky. Journal of Social History. Summer 2003.

Related Stuff Mom Never Told You: Why do women wear diamond engagement rings?

Related Stuff Mom Never Told You: Why do women wear diamond engagement rings?

Topics in this Post: engagement rings