Piercing

Piercing  is a type  of semi-permanent body  modification. In the  technique most commonly used  by piercing professionals today, a hollow-point needle  is inserted in the  skin  to cut  a small  opening for the  display of jewelry, usually  a ring  or a stud. Although vulnerable to infection, the flesh surrounding the puncture wound tends to heal within  weeks. In the United States  and Europe, the most  widespread practice involves the ear lobe or the cartilage  of the outer ear. The  piercing of facial tissue  is also an increasingly popular technique, especially  nasal cartilage, the septum, the soft tissue  around the eyebrow, the tissue  around the lips, and the tongue. Other common forms include the nipple, the soft skin tissue around the navel, and the genitals, although any fleshy part of the body may theoretically be pierced.

Piercing in Human Culture

Piercing  varies widely according to historical and cultural context. Archaeological evidence from sites in the Alps and the Indian subcontinent suggest  that piercing, especially  of the  ears and  nose,  has been  a part  of human culture for as far back as 5,000  years,  and  it enjoyed widespread popularity in  the  ancient Mediterranean  cultures. Although piercing fell out of practice in Medieval  Europe, colonial contacts led to the spread of piercing during the European Renaissance, particularly in countries that  had extensive  maritime empires. Piercing  remained popular among both men and women throughout the 16th  and 17th  centuries in Western Europe. The  austerity of Victorian beauty  standards led to the  abandonment  of the practice, particularly among middle-class Europeans who increasingly associated  piercing with  what  they considered the  primitive  nonwhites who  fell under colonial rule. However, piercings remained commonplace among sailors and merchant marines throughout the  19th  and  20th  centuries. As a result, piercing was often  associated with the urban subcultures of prostitution, sailors, and burgeoning enclaves  of homosexuals in industrialized cities.

The 20th Century

With the sexually uninhibited fashion of the 1920s and the early rise of the beauty industry among young and oftentimes single new women, earrings became a standard  aspect  of women’s fashion, with offerings  from  high-end jewelers like Cartier. The  advent  of clip-on earrings in the 1930s led to a decrease in the number of actual  piercings. When ear piercing again  became popular in the  1950s,  doctor’s offices began  to offer sterile  techniques—including the piercing gun—as  alternatives to home methods. After the late 1960s, when  biker, gay, and sadomasochism subcultures began  to influence high-fashion designers like Vivienne  Westwood, more  elaborate piercings began  to  break  into  the  mainstream of American and European fashion. The  punk scene  of the  1970s  also saw an explosion of piercings  among young  working-class men  in England and  North America.  As male athletes, rock  and  roll musicians, and  other celebrities began  to display  piercings in the  1970s  and  1980s,  increasing numbers of men  found it socially acceptable to pierce. Body piercing has also become highly popular. Starting with Jim Ward’s Gauntlet Studio, opened in 1978 in West Hollywood, body piercing studios, publications, and  conferences have  increased in  size  and  number throughout the United States.  Since  the  1970s,  it is increasingly common to see piercing among both women and men, and ear and body piercing have become a standard service offered  by both accessories retailers  and tattoo parlors.

Leave a Reply