Bling headphones are loudspeakers worn over the ears and adorned with visually-dazzling embellishment, often in the form of crystals. The word "bling" is a slang term that describes flamboyant jewelry usually associated with hip-hop culture, but extending to mainstream pop culture. Ostentatious headphones have long been used as a fashion accessory — especially in musically-inclined social circles — with bling headphones considered the flashiest type. Although eye-catching, jeweled headphones have caught criticism for being unwieldy, overly-extravagant, and encouraging a culture of excess.
Headphones became popular fashion accessories with renewed mainstream interest in mobile music players. With numerous people enjoying portable music in public, fashion-conscious individuals began to deviate from the norm of small black earbud speakers in order to make a statement. Developers began experimenting with different ways to make earbuds more noticeable, from using white and other non-conventional colors on both the speakers and the cord, to incorporating design innovations such as hooks to better secure the speakers onto the user's ears.
Some individuals decided to make their own statements by wearing the large, bulky headphones that were popular in earlier decades and in recording studios. Not only were the headphones much more noticeable than most earbud variants, but the padding that surrounded the mouth of the speaker also served to muffle environmental noise, a major concern for listeners when out in public. The combination of aesthetics and functionality helped boost headphones back into popular culture.
Before bling headphones were developed, manufacturers capitalized on the size of headphones to create more elaborate designs. Headphones were a much larger canvas than earbuds, allowing manufacturers to print visually-pleasing images on the displayed areas. In addition, the larger size helps to create greater contrast between the user's head and the headphones, as well as make visual complements to the rest of the user's outfit more obvious. Several manufacturers continue to make a large part of their profits off of producing fancy headphones.
Bling headphones were, in some people's opinions, the next step in headphone design. By blending the already-loud visuals of headphones with crystals, beads, and other elaborate forms of decor, designers are able to create stunning accessories for the fashion-conscious. Various celebrities have been spotted wearing bling headphones or their smaller counterparts, bling earbuds, to further the trend's popularity. Some experts criticize the devices' apparent lack of practicality, however, citing that the embellishments can easily be lost without notice while the headphones are being worn. Price is another matter of concern, as bling headphones only add to the cost of developing designer earphones with exceptional sound quality.