I’ve never wanted to get a tattoo because I’m too afraid I’d regret it later. It seems lately, that I’m one of the only people who feels that way–and that all of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn (specifically the East Village, Williamsburg) is wallpapered in skin ink. But, still, when I turned 30 this year I wanted something.
So I went to J.Colby Smith at New York Adorned, the piercer to the fashion set, and pierced my helix–that’s your ear cartilage, for the uninitiated. (Into the Gloss has an awesome, comprehensive guide to piercings, if you want to know more). I knew to go to Colby because it seemed like everyone I worked with had gone to him and had delicate arrangements of gold studs, spikes, and hoops adorning all parts of their ears and noses. I knew to go to Colby especially because Emily Weiss of Into the Gloss (who is our downstairs neighbor), sang his praises both on her site and proved a convincing model of his handiwork in person.
With the upcoming Costume Institue exhibit and Met ball set to celebrate punk style, I wanted to look a little closer at the delicate piercing craze Colby has spawned within the fashion community. Piercing is a hallmark of punk style–in the safety-pin-through-the-ear kind of way. And Colby himself is an admitted punk.
“I grew up punk,” he told me. “I went through a lot of incarnations–I started as skater, which was pretty cute; then I got into an industrial thing; then I went through a skinhead phase; then I went through the hardcore scene; and now I try to keep it as classic as possible.”
It would seem that the restrained and delicate piercings Colby doles out are a far cry from a safety-pin through the ear. But, Colby says, you have to “tip your hat to punk” for inspiring it all. “A lot of things that we embrace come from the underground,” he said. “Over time it gets filtered through music or fashion but it comes from the underground.”
Colby, who started piercing in 2000, says that the fact that the fashion crowd has embraced his style of piercing is no accident. “For years and years I would look at fashion magazines and see videos of runway shows. Fashion always seemed a bit edgy and wild and crazy to me but it for one reason or another piercings were stricken from the magazines and the runway,” he said. “So for me, thinking that fashion was edgy and pushing the limits, I didn’t understand why piercings weren’t part of that. Every single girl has their ears pierced. I didn’t see the difference between that an adding a piercing up higher or in a different spot. So I just went after it–I saw a void in the industry and I just wanted to fill it.”
Fill it he did. We asked some of our friends in the industry, like Into the Gloss’s Emily Weiss and Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine–all Colby devotees–to share their piercings (and the stories behind them) with us.