Few trends have been quite so polarizing, both in appearance and reception by popular culture, as grills. The bread and butter of Lil Wayne and Lil Jon’s dentists for at least the past two decades, golden teeth have seemingly broke into the accessories closets of some of the biggest female stars around. Besides Beyonce, Lana del Rey, and Rihanna, Katy Perry paired her flashy Emanuel Ungaro gold-leaf and leopard number with a set of golden grillz at the VMAs, while Madonna, 55, recently decided to expand her mid-life crisis repertoire into the realm of oral bling. Most media reception agreed, however, that her dental diamonds made her look halfway between an episode of Breaking Bad come-to-life and that crazy Christian meth-head from Orange is the New Black. She Instagrammed the look with a caption stating, “Don’t hate me. Hate my #grillz. @cap_master.” Can we hate both? We kid, Madge, we kid… Except not.
In any case, grills have been around for quite a while longer than most people would think. Wealthy Mayans would drill pieces of jade into their teeth for a smile that was equal parts shiny and gangrenous green. In more modern times, grills were originally worn by male New York hip hop artists in the ’80s and ’90s, and were then brought into more mainstream prominence with the rise of Dirty South rap and hip hop in general during the mid-2000s. During this time, they became solidified as golden and diamond encrusted symbols of wealth and status in the rap community. In fact, in 2005, Nelly had a semi-popular single called “Grills.” Remember that song? Remember Nelly? It’s okay, neither do we. Now well into the 2010s, what is interesting is the fact that grills have made the gender (and largely class and race) jump from urban male youth to wealthy, “fashionable” women. The appropriation of minority cultures for fashion is nothing new to the mainstream (um, Aztec print anybody?) so this really was more of an inevitability than anything.
If you want to rock the look, Contessa Jewelers starts off solid gold tooth caps at about $200. A solid upper grill goes for about $700, and adding diamonds will sink you another $1,500 at least. Hard to believe we’re still kind of in a recession. Whether this trend is here to stay or is doomed to go the way of anklets and toe rings remains to be seen, though if Miley Cyrus has her way, it won’t be stopping any time soon. Hannah Montana recently confessed to Harper’s Bazaar that she carries around three in her purse that she switches up depending if she wants to stand out or not. Womp womp.