What’s up with that?

So many holes to poke in the popularity of piercings

What’s up with that?

Sarah Sommer, Staff Writer

Piercings really are perplexing. They always seem to carry distinct messages, ranging from wild and rebellious to posh and elegant. People spend hundreds of dollars on jewelry to fill the dozens of tiny holes they poke in their bodies for the sake of fashion. Piercings are often considered ladylike, but basically, they’re just self-mutilation. And, well, they hurt. What’s up with that?

Piercings have been a bizarre part of life for 5,000 years, when they were popularized in Africa, Rome and Israel. These early piercings were more like our modern day “gauges,” in which the earlobes would be expanded and fitted with elaborately carved pieces of jade or gold.

Women used piercings to distinguish themselves, either as the wives of wealthy men or as prostitutes– I imagine that must have led to some very awkward mix-ups– and, for the more superstitious, to block evil spirits from entering the brain. Ear piercings were also worn by sailors, because it was thought they could improve eyesight. They had other benefits, as well: if an unknown body washed up on shore, the villagers would remove his earrings and use them to pay for a proper funeral.

By the 1500s, piercings had become a less practical and more elegant part of society. It was very popular for girls to don extremely short haircuts, leaving a whole lot of skin exposed, in need of decoration. Women just couldn’t resist an excuse for more jewels and pearls, even if it meant painfully introducing a sharp piece of metal to the inside of their earlobes.

In the 1920s, luckily, women began to wise-up a little bit, and reverted to wearing elaborate clip-on earrings. However, it took less than 50 years for people to whip back out their piercing guns and needles, though this time the movement was led by hippies and punks.

Slowly but surely, this rebel-only style bled– gross pun intended– back into mainstream culture, and today piercings are a typical part of most people’s lives.

When it comes to looking good, many girls take the mantra of “no pain, no gain,” and piercings are no exception. At least now you can rest assured knowing that the strange style is steeped in thousands of years of history, a kind of tribute to the punks, posh women, and prosperous wives who came before us.

Besides, I have to admit, they do look pretty cool.