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Courtesy @mvudslyde

Why are so many people wearing elf ears?

So much more than just a beauty trend, we meet the people adorning themselves with prosthetic elf ears as a way of expressing their true identities

No longer confined to the world of larping or once a year Halloween costumes, more and more people are introducing plastic or latex elf ear prosthetics into their everyday wear. Why? Because it allows them to express something about their true selves that more mainstream make-up might not. Whether it's using ears to enhance their innate beauty or wearing them to totally transform their natural selves, we spoke to seven individuals championing the style to find out more. 

Ayesha Tan Jones AKA YaYa Bones, musician and multidisciplinary artist, London

How did you get into elf ears?
I've only recently acquired a pair of elf ears, an amazing custom pair with studs and chains made by my magical friend Wolfe_chains. They gifted me a pair of ears at Shambala festival this summer, where I was playing a set as my musical alias YaYa Bones, at the festival's first ever queer healing space. As soon as they put them on me, it was as if the ears had always been there.

What is it about looking human that you’re rejecting?
I don't think I'm rejecting anything, just expanding the idea of what it is to be a creature on this plane. Adding some oddness to your daily dose of normal does society good.

When you put them on, do they feel part of your body or are you aware they’re prosthetics?
They fall off when I am skateboarding or hula hooping (my two fav sports) so it all feels a bit clumsy. Also, my skin is slightly more brown than the ears. Most (affordable) elf ears you find online are only one skin tone: white/pink. That is an issue, as I'm pretty sure the true elf-folk of the other realms are multicultural.

What reactions do you get to your ears from other people?
People love it. If they know me, it makes sense, it's just a visual extension of my spirit.

Freyja Newsome, artist, London

Why do you wear elf ears?
I just thought they were a really fun and cute thing so I bought a few different styles and started wearing them. It wasn’t anything deep, I just love fantasy and folklore and wanted to just kind of extend my appearance to mirror that.

What is it about looking human that you’re rejecting?
It’s fucking boring first off, but I’m not really rebelling against anything. Some people feel beautiful when they get their hair done at the salon, or on their wedding day or when they’ve just had a nice bath or whatever. I feel beautiful and comfortable like this, but I don’t ‘need’ the ears to feel that way, it’s just what I like doing.

Do you feel otherworldly?
I don’t think otherworldly is correct for me personally, like I know I’m still a human being and something so superficial as a prosthetic doesn’t broaden my mind in that way.

Would you make your ears permanently like this?
Yeah, I want to get my ears pointed and my tongue split.

What reactions do your ears get from other people? How does it make you feel?
People generally just wanna touch them and steal them. I don’t really get many negative reactions around London but I think if I wore them back home in West Yorkshire it might be a bit different because people just aren’t really used to shit like that, whereas in London even if someone hasn’t seen it before it’s still kind of anything goes.

Tomasyn Hayes, artist, Brooklyn

Why do you wear elf ears?
I wear these ears so that my outward appearance can match how I feel on the inside. I first received these ears at the Renaissance Fair a year ago. They were the largest and only pair of "goblin" ears they had. I was the only person who wanted them and something about that made it feel like they were meant for me. I felt completely empowered wearing them.

Do they make you feel beautiful?
Beauty, on the surface, is never really a goal of mine. When I have my ears on, just like any look I do, I completely melt into that look. I often forget that I have these things on and wonder about the questions I receive when I'm in them.

If you could redesign how you look, what would you add?
I would add wings and elongated ears. These additions would be equal parts vanity and functionality. But because I exist in this realm, I would then be an outsider to the common human existence and feel a loneliness that reaches down in my core. I would never want to be my heightened self and still have to do things like get on the train or go to a job, nor would I want to be a spectacle. That's lame. I would love to see what my soul looks like.

What kind of reactions do you get?
I don't wear my ears for public reaction nor do I care for public critique. I hope that seeing me in my truth can inspire others to shed themselves from any restrictions they've taken with their creative expression.

Smin Smith, stylist, and founder of Vagina Dentata, London

Why do you wear elf ears?
Religion and society have put the “natural” (normally white) cis body on a pedestal for far too long. I think there’s an authenticity in what we choose to manipulate about our appearances, it says more about us than anything we happen to have been born into. I first started wearing elf ears in self-portraits about six years ago whilst studying photography and then started including them in my styling work last year. My practice has always been influenced by science-fiction, fantasy, and costume. They’re quite a simple and powerful way to take the body away from strictly “human”.

Do they make you feel beautiful?
I don’t think it’s about beauty for me, it’s more about appearing “otherworldly” and I find their pointed structure brings a more powerful look to the face. They distort the body away from traditional “beauty” ideals and therefore reject the male gaze.

If you could completely redesign your appearance, without any restrictions, limits, or expectations, what would you look like?
I’d have blue skin to match my already bright blue hair, with large pointed ears, and probably some robotic limbs that’d be far more practical than our own.  I’d love to be even shorter as well, like two foot tall but with insane strength.

Would you make your ears permanently like this?
It’s the only plastic surgery I’ve ever considered. I love that we as a society are starting to consider body manipulation as a tool for expression, as opposed to another way of enforcing Eurocentric beauty standards.  

Taelour Moore, student, Florida

Why do you wear elf ears?
I wear ears because I think they offer an interesting value to my art, something about it just adds an extra level of creativity and can complete a look a lot of the time. I started wearing them because of my friend @itgirlcomet. She has this whole elfin fantasy look that I thought was dope so I made it my own for a while. 

What is it about looking human that you’re rejecting?
Normal beauty standards. I was always teased as a child for having big ears (which is hilarious and ridiculous). I just notice so many people needing to feel like they fit that perfect model of a stick thin waist, a big ass, and to have certain features that appeal to everyone, and I like to kind of ignore that sometimes and just create a creature that I think is perfect – something beautiful in my own eyes.

Lucas Tate, fashion student, London

Why do you wear elf ears?
To present myself as I would like people to see me depending on what character I want to be that day. I was fascinated by fantasy and sci-fi and desperately wanted to have pointy ears and look like I was some otherworldly creature. They make me feel empowered. I love the feeling of being different.

Does that come from a desire to live in a different kind of society?  
Yes, definitely. I wish there was much more diversity in people and in what is around me.

If you could completely redesign your appearance, without any restrictions, limits, or expectations, what would you look like?
I would have patterned skin like in Avatar and make areas of it transparent. I would alter my face so it was sharper and give myself a cute pointy nose and change my eye colour and also maybe make myself smaller. My eyes would be further apart and my teeth would be pointed and sharp.

Do you connect with other people who also wear elf ears?
I actually don’t know of anyone else unfortunately but I kind of like it that way to be honest.

What reactions do you get to your ears from other people?
I get the craziest reactions. People take pictures of me everywhere, with and without asking. People laugh or shout stuff – positive and negative. People are scared, people ask me why or what am I. Some people think they're real. They cause such a drama. But I love it.

Harry Charlesworth, artist, New York

Why do you wear elf ears?
I want my outsides to feel as magical as my insides. I started wearing ears one night in NYC, hosting Ladyfag’s 11:11. Stawecki, Aquaria and I decided to do coordinated looks with prosthetics. I wanted to go for a sexy goblin look. There’s something about the ears that feel like such a natural extension of my character. I felt powerful. Since I was little I’ve always been obsessed with anime. A lot of characters often have pointed ears and I think the main attraction comes from there.

Do you feel beautiful?
I do feel beautiful. I haven’t always felt beautiful in make-up. I’ve gone out plenty of nights knowing I look a mess or that I would scare people off with how I look. There’s a freedom and a beauty in that sentiment too. That era of my looks gave me an opportunity to navigate my feelings about my own gender and how I present myself to the world. I think make-up has made me begin to appreciate my masculinity, oddly enough. Doing make-up with the ears which is more genderless rather than purely feminine makes me feel really comfortable in my skin.

Do you connect with other people who also wear elf ears?
I have friends who also wear ears but I don’t think it’s much of a community around just wearing prosthetics. Everyone has their own individual look and aesthetic. I do feel a kinship to people who appreciate the same kinds of beauty as I do... so in that way, we’re connected.