Body Jewelry Not The Latest Fashion! How Far Back Does Body Piercing Go?

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Although people might think body piercing is a new fad, its origins go back centuries. Early Egyptian civilizations, and even the oldest European mummified body of Ötzi the Iceman, have been discovered with ear piercings. Body jewelry is also mentioned in three books of the Bible -- Genesis 24:22, Exodus 32 and Deuteronomy 15:12-17. So why do most people in the U.S feel body piercings are something relatively new?

Although people might think body piercing is a new fad, its origins go back centuries. Early Egyptian civilizations, and even the oldest European mummified body of Ötzi the Iceman, have been discovered with ear piercings. Body jewelry is also mentioned in three books of the Bible -- Genesis 24:22, Exodus 32 and Deuteronomy 15:12-17. So why do most people in the U.S feel body piercings are something relatively new? Wendy Mitchell, owner of Pick Your Pleasure Poison, which sells body jewelry, among other items, offers her theory.

"Body art, such as tattoos and body piercing, cross all geographical boundaries. When you look at the last twenty to thirty years, people have felt a greater desire to connect with their ancestral roots. That's why it's no wonder we see more people today with body jewelry."

In fact, every continent engages in these practices in one form or another, and they have for centuries. As for North America, and particularly in the U.S., it wasn't until the late 1960s and early 1970s that body piercing began in the counterculture.

"Body piercing was actually popular in the hippie and gay subculture first," says Mitchell, "Jim Ward experimented with nipple piercing in New York in the late '60s and then moved to Hollywood in the early '70s. There he met two other men, Doug Malloy and Fakir Musafar. The three of them developed the basic techniques and equipment of modern body piercing and opened a shop in West Hollywood in 1978. Less than a decade later their small business expanded into locations across the US and Europe."

So how exactly did the art of body piercing move to the mainstream? According to Mitchell, the reason was music.

"Popular recording artists of the time like Madonna and Guns 'N Roses began showing off their piercings. By the early '90s, college age kids saw a piercing as a rite of passage into adulthood. And that's why today you see soccer moms with nose ringsā€¦and perhaps a few other piercings you can't see," laughs Mitchell.

So what exactly does a piercing mean today? Mitchell says it depends on the individual.

"Again, in the early '70s a man with a piercing was making an unspoken reference to his homosexuality. Today, it can literally mean anything. Some people view it as a form of self-expression. Others do it for symbolic reasons like overcoming a personal hardship. Someone else might have body piercings because they feel it's aesthetically pleasing. The reasons really depend on the individual, but one thing is certain. Body piercings are now mainstream and they're here to stay."

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Wendy Mitchell