In my humble opinion, it’s fine for a man to wear an earring or get a tattoo. Though the Old Testament has some words for men that relate to their dress and body decoration, these principles are nowhere found in the New. The principle in the New is that we are free in the Spirit to decide for ourselves what is good, provided it accords with standards of modesty, decency, and so on.
There is a strong cultural reaction against tattoos and earrings, especially amongst fortysomethings. The emphasis this generation places on such expressions of personal decoration is that of rebellion. In the eyes of these folks, one is bound to a certain cultural code of propriety that is determined by highbrow society. Failure to meet this code signals rebellion. In the eyes of my generation, however, such decorations are expressions of individuality, and are neither right nor wrong. They simply are. If one chooses to have a tattoo, and so express oneself, fine. If one chooses not to, fine. Neither individual is rebelling. Both are simply expressing themselves.
This may sound scarily like postmodern thought, and perhaps it is. But I would argue that the area of aesthetics has received some helpful input from postmodernism, and that the church would do well to recognize that. Not that everything postmodernism signifies has been helpful–not by a long shot. But the open-mindedness of postmodernism, while deadly to religion, is actually helpful and welcome with bodily expression. I do not advocate that people should disregard cultural standards, though. Far be it from me to say that. I would merely say that there is room for personal expression within conformity to social standards. One should not buck the system altogether, for to do so is rebellious, but one may certainly live by one’s taste and not the personal nuances of others. To my generation, then, I would say this: broadly conform but personally tailor. That’s my starting point. I see in it not rebellion but expression, and that makes all the difference.