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Visual markers of marital status

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Title: Visual markers of marital status  
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Subject: Marital status, Toe ring, Status symbol, Human appearance, Wedding ring
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Visual markers of marital status

Visual markers of marital status, as well as social status, may include clothing, hairstyle, accessories, jewelry, tattoos and other bodily adornments. Visual markers of marital status are particularly important because they indicate that a person should not be approached for flirtation, courtship, or sex . In some cultures, married people enjoy special privileges or are addressed differently by members of the community.

Marital status markers are usually gender-specific.


  • Male 1
    • Jewelry 1.1
    • Beards 1.2
    • Prayer shawl 1.3
  • Female 2
    • Jewelry 2.1
    • Hats and head coverings 2.2
    • Hairstyle 2.3
    • Cosmetics 2.4
    • Clothing 2.5
  • References 3


Male marital status markers are usually less elaborate than female marital status markers. In many cultures, they may be non-existent .


In many Western countries, some married men wear a wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand. In parts of Europe, especially in German-speaking regions, as well as Denmark, The Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Poland, Norway, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and Macedonia, the wedding ring is worn on the ring finger of the right hand. Some people choose to wear their wedding ring on the left hand in Turkey.

In China, Western influence has led some men to wear rings, but not many. Traditionally, men did not wear rings and were expected to have several partners, called concubines. A ring to symbolize being married to one person was not necessary.[1]

In modern times, the material for wedding rings has become less strictly defined, and includes gold, white gold, red gold, tungsten carbide, platinum, and titanium.

Manual laborers sometimes use rings from inexpensive or durable materials like tungsten or an ink tattoo while working to avoid damage to the ring or the possibility of injury.[2]


Among the Amish and Hutterite communities of Canada and the United States, only married men are entitled to wear beards. Unmarried men must shave.[3][4]

Prayer shawl

In some Ashkenazi Jewish communities, men wear a prayer shawl, known as a "tallit" or "tallis", only after marriage. It is customary for the father of the bride to present the groom with a tallit as a wedding present.

In other Jewish communities, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, all males wear the "tallis", but only the married ones wear it over their heads.



  • Engagement ring - In many Western cultures, a proposal of marriage is traditionally accompanied by the gift of a ring. The man proposes and offers the ring; if the woman accepts this proposal of marriage, she will wear the ring, showing she is no longer available for courtship. In British-American tradition, diamond rings are the most popular type of engagement ring. The engagement ring is usually worn on the left ring finger (sometimes this ring is switched from the left to the right hand as part of the wedding ceremony).
  • Wedding ring - Many Western wedding ceremonies include the exchange of a wedding ring or rings. A common custom is for the groom to place a ring on the bride's finger and say, "With this ring I thee wed." Sometimes both bride and groom present each other with rings and repeat either these or similar words. After the ceremony, the rings are worn throughout the marriage. In the event of divorce, the couple usually removes their rings; but some widows continue to wear their wedding ring, sometimes switching it to the right hand, while others do not. In Jewish tradition, the wedding ring must be a plain band, without gemstones. China has acquired the custom of wedding rings as late as the era of post-Cultural Revolution economic reforms, when rings were affordable and Western influence was allowed in.[5] As an adopted habit, there are variations on how rings are used, if at all, and when. Some women wear the wedding ring on the right hand, men on the left (representing yin and yang).[6] Some men wear the ring on the left hand.[7] Many Chinese put the ring away to protect it, except for important holidays, such as anniversaries.[8] In Chinese tradition, higher status for men was signified by having several young female partners or concubines. A ring denies that status. For this reason, many modern Chinese men do not wear a wedding ring. Many Chinese marry for economic and social status, not love, and assume that their marriage partnership is not exclusive. The ring, a symbol of exclusivity, is meaningless.[9] Diamonds and two-partner wedding rings are advertised in modern China.[10][11] The Japanese, despite American occupation in the 1950s, only acquired a culture for wedding and engagement rings in the 1960s. In 1959, the importing of diamonds was allowed. In 1967 a U.S. advertising agency created a marketing campaign on behalf of the De Beers diamonds. The campaign equated rings with other symbols of Western culture. The campaign resulted in a sharp increase in demand: From 5% in 1967, to 27% in 1972, to 50% in 1978, to 60% in 1980.[12]
  • Mangalsutra - In many Hindu wedding ceremonies, the groom gives the bride a gold pendant or necklace incorporating black beads or black string. This is called a mangal-sutra. It not only proclaims a woman's married state, it is believed by many to exercise a protective influence over the husband. That is, a wife's love and concern, as shown by her donning of the mangal-sutra, is magically helpful to the husband. This resembles the karwa-chauth celebration, in which a wife fasts and prays for her husband's welfare.
  • Bangles - Married Hindu women also wear bangles of either white (sankha) and/or red colour (known as pala) on both hands, and never remove them until they are divorced or widowed. Often made of glass, they are broken when the marriage has ended. Bollywood uses this to great dramatic effect in Hindi films, with a woman being informed of the demise of her husband by the messenger (often her son) smashing her glass bangles and wiping the sindoor off her forehead. Bangles made of gold and silver, as well as other materials are also worn by the middle class.

The concept of mourning jewelry, the wearing of black jewelry, is becoming an accepted, visible choice for widows and widowers. Usually a black wedding band is worn on the third finger of the left hand for a spouse. Usually the ring is a black wedding band but black eternity bands and black solitaires are also being used. The term is "widow's ring" and the mourning ring is added to the marriage rings, and worn for the duration of the mourning period.

Hats and head coverings

In Jewish tradition, a married woman is expected to cover her head when entering a synagogue. In Orthodox Jewish communities, head coverings are worn by women at all times outside her home, sometimes covering only part of her hair such as a hat. In some hasidic communities, women shave their heads after the wedding and wear a close-fitting black scarf. The type of head covering may be determined by local custom or personal preference. In some communities, it is permissible for hair to show; in others, no strand is left uncovered. Hats, headscarves, snoods and wigs are used, sometimes in combination. Turkmen women wear a special hat or ring called Alyndaƈy after their marriage.



  • Sindoor, a red powder (vermilion), is put on a woman's forehead to indicate her marital status.


  • Aprons for Tibetan wives.
  • In western and northern Europe, it used to be common for widows to wear black, at least for the first year after the death of the husband. This custom has withered away in recent decades.


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