Popular History of Piercings: What We Learned From the 80’s

For much of the pierced and modified generation, the eighties were a blur of early childhood energy, or even a period of pre-existence, but as retro becomes the new modern and modern begins to look to the future, the world of alternative fashion is slowly taking on a life of its own. And for those of us who did live through and can remember the 1980’s, our worst fears have undeniably begun coming true: the eighties are back! …at least, eighties fashion.

What many of us neglect to realize (or refuse to accept), is that, leggings and lace tops not withstanding, we owe some of our current piercings and jewelry innovations to the inception of facial piercing on the West Coast of the united States; piercings here began in, you guessed it, the 80’s.

After venturing abroad in the 1960’s and early seventies, many of the American youth who had sought enlightenment in India or new experiences in the UK began returning to their homeland with more than just a newfound sense of self. What they brought with them was a more worldly fashion sense, including an affinity for nose and tongue piercing. The first shops for readily available piercing then slowly but surely began to spring up on the West coast. By the mid eighties, piercing was forging a future, with even the popularity of ear piercing finding a major resurgence.

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Although Marilyn Monroe is most often credited with the inspiration for the piercing bearing her name, let’s not forget that the painted lip and beauty mark aesthetic didn’t truly hit popular culture until the 1980’s as well. Would the Monroe piercing really be as popular as it is now if it weren’t for Madonna and Cindy Crawford? It certainly begs the question. And as for Madonna’s influence on feminine youth culture throughout the 1980’s, we can also assert that navel piercing wouldn’t have blown up the way it did in the nineties if Madonna hadn’t masterminded the mainstreaming of the bare midriff a whole decade earlier.

Yes the eighties have given us a plethora of alternative fashion nudges. So now that black lace, big hair, dangling crosses, and giant hoop earrings have returned to the spotlight, just take a deep breath and recite this mantra when overwhelmed, “I may not love the eighties,…..but my piercer does.”

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