Despite his progressive nature, Kelly maintained a rather conventional view of domestic life and marriage.
Why isn't Gene Kelly, in his prime, ever photographed wearing a wedding band? Let's speculate.
From the 1850s to the 1940s, most American wedding ceremonies took place with one ring, the bride's. This was particularly true among Catholics, Vicki Howard writes for the Journal of Social History (36.4: 2003).
Then, during WWII, America adopted the double-ring ceremony, and wedding bands for men became more acceptable. Notably, this cultural change was not grounded in notions of partnership or romance, but commercialism and patriotism. Let me explain.
As men were marrying in record numbers before going to war in 1942, jewelers and their advertisers began to present the man's wedding band as natural—and decidedly not feminine, as had often been the case with jewelry throughout (Western) history.
Indeed, the ring now functioned as "a manly object in harmony with war aims," Howard notes. Wearing a band implied "a marker of adulthood" and "a symbol of what [the soldier] was fighting to preserve." (For some, the man's ring also served "to allay cultural anxieties over homosexuality.")
A lifelong Catholic, Kelly married Betsy Blair in October 1941, slightly before the accepted adoption of men's wedding bands occurred. So it makes sense he didn't don one during that marriage.
Kelly wed Jeanne Coyne in 1960. At this point, double-ring ceremonies were mainstream, so one might think he'd opt for a wedding band—and maybe he did but didn't wear it in public?
We might also consider this: despite his progressive approach to onscreen dance and his liberal politics, Kelly apparently maintained a rather conventional view of domestic life and marriage (Blair details as much in her memoir as does Kelly in several interviews from the '60s and '70s).
Perhaps, then, Gene Kelly didn't wear a wedding band (at least in public) because he didn't conform to newfangled cultural norms that broke with his presumably rather established ideas about Catholic unions.
Weddings bands image: Wikimedia Commons.