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.
Leandra Medine, Man Repeller
I think that we've entered this phase of post-modernism where we're so sick of exploiting the limbs that we already have, that we're searching for other limbs to adorn. That's why girls are trying to put rings on their knuckles, and outrageous cuffs in their ears, and maybe we're afraid to wear toe rings again but that's where we're headed. If someone else makes it happen, I won't say that I won't try it.
Emily Weiss, Into the Gloss
Piercings are a relatively low-commitment way to add edge to your look, and with people like Colby "art directing" them, they've come a long way from the classic middle-school "second hole" or cartilage piercing options. It's as much about the jewelry as it is the placement--I think really delicate, simple jewelry in unexpected places can be really chic.
Anna Deutsch, Fashionista Contributor
I tripled my ear piercings a few months ago during a Saturday visit to Colby at NY Adorned. After breaking up with a longterm boyfriend I sort of had that typical girly reaction of wanting to change my hair, get a tattoo, do something drastic and personal. Getting a few piercings was the ideal solution because they actually don't have to be that extreme (and they're not permanent), but they still make a subtle statement. It's also a weirdly addictive habit (and expensive, mine are all rose gold, that shit adds up!). I've been back to visit Colby several times since my first visit, and we're thinking about bringing back the belly ring this summer...
Alyssa Vingan, web editor of Marie Claire
In the middle of my high school years I became fascinated with piercings and tattoos, probably the result of going to too many rock shows and watching too much of The Real World, and eventually I started asking my mom she'd take me to get pierced. I think I expressed interest in getting an eyebrow ring — I was sixteen, don't judge! — and right then and there my mom made a rule: as long as I was under her roof I couldn't pierce anything on my face. So, I went online and researched all of the cool places inside of your ears that you can pierce, and proceeded to get every single one of them. I was, and still kind of am, obsessed.
Laurel Pantin, Associate Accessories And Shopping Editor of Glamour
I wanted to get my septum pierced since I was in high school, and when I saw Colby's gold septum chains I couldn't wait any more! Surprisingly, it didn't hurt at all, and I like that I can wear it when I want, but when I don't nobody knows I have it.
Britt Aboutaleb, Beauty Director of WhoWhatWear
I went to Colby before Leah's birthday party last year! I'd taken a month off work pre-move to LA and was intent on filling my days with new things—so why not? I actually wanted a tattoo, but wasn't ready to commit so a few holes seemed like a much better idea. I love really delicate jewelry but always either lose it or forget to put it on every morning. Now I always have something on, but don't ever have to think about it.
Leah Chernikoff, Editorial Director of Fashionista
I went to Colby (with Britt!) earlier this year to get my helix pierced--a kind of post-30 thing, as I mentioned before. I wanted to do something to toughen up my jewelry situation but still keep it delicate. So I got tiny gold pyramids, a gold bar, and this dainty rose gold hoop in my helix which looks awesome but is a real bitch to heal. I'm determined to get to the place where I can sleep on my left side. It will happen. I know it.