We just celebrated the start of a new year, and with that comes the inevitable need to look back at how things have changed. In this case, it’s necessary to look back and think about how ear piercings have changed over the last three decades. Now, for a lot of people, it may seem a little silly to do a retrospective on ear piercings seeing as how unless the human ear has evolved in just thirty years, not much has really changed. Maybe not in the structure of the ear, but when it comes to piercings, brother, it’s another world entirely!
It may be hard for some of you to hear this, but thirty years ago, the year would have been 1990 (ouch…). Shopping malls were big business in United States, the big booms of the 1980s were still going, and the stripped-down grunge of the 90s hadn’t quite taken effect just yet. Perhaps the biggest thing going when it came to the mall & teens was getting your ears pierced. Ask anyone who is about forty years old, and they’ll probably have a story about “the gun”. This was a device used at mall kiosks that punched pre-chosen jewelry into your earlobe or ear cartilage in full view of the masses. Whether you laughed, cried, screamed, passed out, or puked, everyone bore witness to the majesty. Ultimately, though, you left with your ear(s) pierced, and that’s what mattered.
This actually went on for a number of years before enough folks realized that something didn’t seem quite right about the whole thing. When you talk to piercing industry professionals (not mall kiosk employees but ACTUAL piercers), they still speak in horror of these piercing guns. While attempts were made to keep them clean, sanitation was suspect. Plus, due to the action of the mechanism, damage was being done to the ear, thereby causing tremendous harm to sensitive tissue.
In time, tattoo and piercing studios started to become the place to go when it came to getting a quality ear piercing, or any kind of piercing for that matter. But as alluded to earlier, ear piercings also became more than just bits of jewelry on the lobe. So, it made sense that a specialized studio with high-quality products in a sterile environment & trained professionals would be the ideal place to go to get the job done right.
The last thirty years have seen ear piercings take on many different roles. In some cases, they still hold true to the familiar nature of being a rite of passage, albeit culturally or socially. Ear piercings have also become fashionable in their intricacy, with piercers & clients exploring unique ways to showcase jewelry in this part of the body. There has also been a steady push for more alternative/Eastern philosophy to guide ear piercing to help those dealing with medical issues not quite remedied in full by Western medicine.
Ear piercings have certainly changed quite a bit in the last thirty years, and whether they will continue to evolve remains to be seen. The one thing that is for certain is that the last three decades have shown a greater sense of acceptance & open-mindedness to new ideas and mindsets & less of a rush to judgement on what things look like. One can only hope the next thirty years brings the same.