While toe rings primarily serve as fashion accessories in the United States and most Western countries, they have a rich history and serve a symbolic purpose within certain cultures. This article discusses the history, the meaning, the materials, the styles, and the sizing of toe rings both in Western cultures and India.
In India, married Hindi women traditionally wore a large ring on the big toe of the left foot. Toe rings have special names depending on the ethnicity of the wearer; they are referred to as "bichiya" (pronounced bee-chee-ya) in Hindi, "mettelu" in Telugu, and "metti" in Tamil. In some cultures, men wore rings on their big toes as symbols of masculine strength.
In Indian culture, toe rings signify that a woman is married. In this sense, toe rings in India function similarly to traditional wedding rings in Western culture.
Toe rings worn by men in India do not signify marital status. They are worn either to cure an ailment or to demonstrate masculinity.
In the United States, toe rings have no special meaning. They are mainly fashion accessories, designed to accent sandals and ankle bracelets.
Hindi toe rings worn by women to symbolise marital status were generally crafted out of silver; in the Hindu religion, gold is a symbol of status and respect and can only be worn above the waist. Today, modern Hindi brides occasionally wear toe rings accented with diamonds or gold, but this is a relatively new practice.
In Western countries, toe rings can be made of any metal or non-metal material. There are many designs with varying levels of intricacy.
Hindi toe rings were traditionally worn in pairs on the second toe of one or both feet. However, some sets of Hindi toe rings actually had a ring for all of the toes except the pinky toe. Traditionally, the rings were very ornate, but many modern brides prefer more subtle styles, and the fashion of Hindi toe rings continues to evolve.
The toe rings generally worn by Hindi men were open hoops that could be easily removed if necessary.
Western toe rings are usually worn on the second or third toes of either foot and are not worn in pairs; most women in Western countries wear either a single toe ring or a pair of unmatched rings. Toe rings are generally worn on bare feet or with sandals or flip-flops. Women wear them more commonly than men and often coordinate them with matching toenail polish and/or ankle bracelets.
A toe ring designed to fit on the second toe is generally a size 3 or 4 for females and a size 5 or 6 for males.
To determine the appropriate toe ring size for your foot, wrap a piece of paper or string around the toe you wish to wear the ring on. Mark where the piece of string or paper meets around the circumference of the toe. Measure the length of the string or paper to the mark. The majority of jewellers, both online and brick-and-mortar, have sizing charts that translate inches and millimetres into ring sizes.