The Cultural History of Piercing: From Stigma to Haute Couture and Everything In Between | Culture
Today, the wide acceptance of the piercing has eliminated any symbolism it once had in Western cultures. Nowadays, the practice is getting stronger and there are endless options for body piercing. In some places, however, the practice retains its stigma. In North Korea, it is banned as a symbol of the capitalist lifestyle, much like skinny jeans. In Iran, body piercings are even punishable by imprisonment, as women arrested by the so-called morality police can testify.
But in the West, we tend to see in piercings only one accessory among others, whose success comes and goes according to trends. Piercings are currently making a comeback. The stylish women sported nose and septum rings (between the nostrils) on the red carpet. A few weeks ago, model Gigi Hadid debuted a fake septum piercing at the CFDA awards. Last March, Katie Holmes was spotted with a nose ring. Actress Florence Pugh almost always wears hers.
From a Western perspective, body piercing could be considered a relatively new practice that was popularized decades ago by different urban groups. But it’s actually an age-old cultural practice in some places. In ancient Egypt, it functioned as a status symbol. Among the Eskimos of the arctic regions of North America, piercing served as a rite of passage to adulthood for several millennia. In Africa, piercing different parts of the body is a traditional and widespread practice among men and women; it can symbolize a new stage in life or just be a nice accessory. Just as is common in
In western countries, for baby girls to have their ear lobe pierced at birth, it is customary to pierce the nose of female infants in some parts of India. The Indian bridal trousseau also includes a nose ring that connects to the hair with a chain as a decorative accessory (for example, Indian actress Priyanka Chopra wore one at her wedding in 2018 when she married Nick Jonas).
In the West, piercings were originally associated with irreverence and rebellion: it was the domain of hippies in the 1960s, the punk movement of the 1970s, and raver culture at the end of the millennium. The first piercing studio was founded in West Hollywood, California in 1978 by Jim Ward, who some call the father of modern piercing. Over the years, the political aspect of piercing has diminished, and today its decorative quality has eclipsed any symbolism. Due to the popularity of piercings, it is no longer necessary to find a specific studio to do it. Jewelers are increasingly tapping into this niche market and many of them offer high quality professional piercing services in store.
Fashion and music have prejudices against piercing
Having become a popular trend, piercing has overcome stigma and prejudice. Piercer David Aznar of Aristocrazy, the first jewelry store in Spain to offer this service, says it’s definitely not like 2009 when I started doing piercings. He notes that piercing is an ancient practice that became what it is today thanks to the pioneers of modern piercing. It is no longer a minority or even marginal practice; it is often a very personal form of expression that complements the person who [wears it].
In the early 1990s, supermodels like Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell graced the catwalk with their discreet navel piercings. Stella Tennants’ iconic septum ring has inspired fashion-loving outsiders. Gradually piercings began to appeal to a wider audience and body adornment was no longer limited to specific subcultures.
At the start of the new millennium, pop icons played a major role in normalizing body piercings. Music stars who could play with their looks more freely than actors who had to conform to the demands of a script were particularly influential in driving the trend. International star Britney Spears’ navel has inspired many teenage girls. Others aspired to emulate Christina Aguileras Dirty– contemporary nose ring. Still others preferred a tongue piercing like Spice Girls Mel B, who showed off hers during group photo shoots.
The much-vaunted Y2K aesthetic wasn’t just defined by low-rise pants and slit dresses. Fashion icons like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan have made piercings a staple in their wardrobe. During the heyday of the Black Eyed Peas, singer Fergies encouraged people to go beyond belly button rings. In the early 2000s, almost any part of the body was fair game for piercing. As a teenager, I succumbed to biting fever. In 2009, I convinced a friend to go with me to have my tongue pierced. It wasn’t a good idea. The ball kept falling and eventually it got infected. I stayed with the piercing for a while, but the area kept swelling. Eventually I came to my senses and removed the piercing for good, says Blanca, 31.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, men also began to embrace piercing. Male piercings were inspired by the pop-punk influence of bands like Blink 182, particularly the band’s drummer Travis Baker (the newest member of the Kardashian clan). Lenny Kravitz’s nose ring also influenced the trend (during the singers’ relationship with Lisa Bonet, the couple wore matching earrings). Slowly but surely piercings have carved out a niche for themselves in fashion, and we tend to see them as a style trend that waxes and wanes like any other. Over the past few years, piercings have appeared frequently on the small screen. Of physics or chemistry at light at Sex educationpiercing has become a cyclical trend on television.
Is piercing making a comeback or has it never gone away?
After a slow period, fashion is once again embracing a multitude of piercings. In addition to the styles featured on the red carpet, the show now features a variety of piercings for the fall/winter season. At Louis Vuitton, an extra-large septum piercing contrasts with shirt and tie styles. The most punk and transgressive version came in Givenchy’s fashion show, which used Rooney Maras-style piercings in The girl with the dragon tattoo. There, bleached eyebrows (another current trend) accentuated the impact of the double forehead piercings worn by tops like Bella Hadid. The Balmain and Koch shows featured lower lip piercings of varying sizes.
This isn’t the first time piercings have taken center stage on the catwalks. In his spring 1994 collection, Les Tatouages, Jean Paul Gaultier makes a nod to the piercing culture; his models, including Rossy de Palma, wore fake piercings. Last July, Olivier Rousteing presented the Jean Paul Gaultiers Haute Couture collection, which reinvented models from the 1994 show. Kim Kardashian and her daughter North West sat front row at the show, wearing matching outfits, complete with nose piercings.
The piercings of the day
Although nose piercings have made a comeback on the catwalks and on the red carpet, according to driller Andrea Shaka (@shakatheneedle on social media), different types of ear piercings are currently the most common request. She notes that right now, ear piercings are the most requested type; make designs suitable for each ear [unique] anatomy is the hottest trend, especially for women, but also for men. Shaka has an average of five dates a day; some days she gets over 20 piercings.
The earlobe and upper ear cartilage are the most common places for piercings, but there are almost limitless possibilities for decorating the ear. Ear piercing has a wide terminology that is differentiated by where it is done: conch (in the area of cartilage called the shell, in the center of the outer area of the ears), helix (the upper part of the ear , on the cartilage), flat (in the upper fold of the ear), tragus (the inner cartilage) and daith (located in the central cartilage). Recently, the daith piercing has become popular because it is associated with protection against migraines, although there is no scientific evidence to prove this.
Microdermal piercings are emerging as a new trend, which started around 2004. In the world of jewelry, microdermals are a cutting-edge piercing in which jewelry is inserted into the skin. The main design is 18k gold and features a simple screw [or] smiley face design. All [microdermal piercings] have a titanium base, which is the only metal our bodies don’t reject, says jewelry company Aristocrazy. The temples or the outer part of the wrist are among the most common places for microdermals. In short, it represents another one of the nearly endless piercing options.
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