Piercing Is All Grown Up

From the places we get them to the jewelry we choose, the most permanent form of personal style is having a moment.

At the center of the graphic a woman with nose piercing is smiling and touching her earrings with her hand. On the left a photo shows a nice-looking piercing parlor shop. On the right a photo shows a woman in denim jeans showing her belly button piercing. One pair of earrings each on both left and right side corners are shown in this graphic.
(Image credit: Future / Getty Images)

My first piercing experience was nothing special. I walked into a children’s hair salon in suburban Virginia at seven years old with an emotional support stuffed animal and a dream. I walked out with two pink “diamond” studs and the beginnings of an infection from the industrial-grade piercing gun.

By the time I booked an appointment for two more diamonds (real, this time) 20 years later, the piercing experience and jewelry I remembered had more than a glow-up—and as many adults as kids and tweens were sitting in the piercer’s chair. Mall kiosks and tattoo parlors were still destinations for a first or second piercing, but so were all-out luxury boutiques and jewelry startups backed by major investor funding. Piercing jewelry branched out from simple quartz posts to playfully shaped studs and decadent fine gems. The places where cool, stacked piercings showed up also seemed to shift: semi-corporate offices and celebrity red carpets became a stage to display triple, quadruple, and quintuple-pierced ears. At least in fashion circles, an ear with only one earring almost looked naked.

Piercings—in ears and in eyebrows, on belly buttons and noses and lower back dimples—have always been personal. Some people get their first ear piercings in infancy, per family tradition; others get them at 13, per a coming-of-age, pop culture rite. They’ve also been a site for double-standards: Wearing whatever body jewelry you want, wherever you want, is a privilege not everyone gets. But clearly something has changed in recent years. Piercings aren’t, as Gen Z might say, “so back.” They are growing up.

Between a rise in fully bejeweled lobes and the invention of words like “earscape,” it felt like the right moment to check in with fashion’s tiniest—but no less important—accessories. Across the five stories ahead, we’re exploring the state of piercing from various angles and earring placements: from the upscale piercing parlors turning a quick jab into a white glove, Instagrammable experience, to the early-aughts trend Gen Z can’t help but revive, to the woman who built a global empire designing jewelry (and patented holes to hold it) for every A-lister you can think of. Together, these pieces show how piercings are leveling up from a coming-of-age montage or afterthought accessories. They're a (semi-) permanent frontier for personal style.

Text: All the Bad B-tches Have Belly Button Piercings, Image is of a woman's Midriff, 2 belly button rings

(Image credit: Future)

The infamous Y2K trend is making a comeback with millennials, Gen Z, and their favorite celebrities.

Text: She's Pierced Every Ear in Hollywood, image of Maria Tash surrounded by her earrings

(Image credit: Future)

Kylie. Cardi. Rihanna. Taylor. In three decades, Maria Tash has built an earring empire for every big name you can think of.

Picture of a Studs store showing interior design. Jewelry products are added to the corners of this graphic. Copy says: "Piercing Parlors Are Pretty Chic Now"

(Image credit: Future)

A new wave of luxe spots are picking up where Claire’s left off.

Graphic design art composed of a woman with clip-on earrings and a pair of large clip-on earrings next to her. Yellow water color element in the background. Copy says: "Thanks, But I'll Keep My Clip-On Earrings"

(Image credit: Future)

“I’ve considered getting my ears pierced, but I’ve never liked the idea of having to change my body for fashion.”

Text: Piercing Stylists Are Reinventing the Classic Ear Stack. Image of a styled ear, multiple earrings, and a woman with many earrings

(Image credit: Future)

There's more to great piercings than adding a new hoop.

Halie LeSavage
Senior News Editor (Fashion & Beauty)

Halie LeSavage is the senior fashion and beauty news editor at Marie Claire, where she assigns, edits, and writes stories for both sections. Halie is an expert on runway trends, celebrity style, emerging fashion and beauty brands, and shopping (naturally). In over seven years as a professional journalist, Halie’s reporting has ranged from fashion week coverage spanning the Copenhagen, New York, Milan, and Paris markets, to profiles on industry insiders including stylist Alison Bornstein and J.Crew womenswear creative director Olympia Gayot, to breaking news stories on noteworthy brand collaborations and beauty launches. (She can personally confirm that Bella Hadid’s Ôrebella perfume is worth the hype.) She has also written dozens of research-backed shopping guides to finding the best tote bags, ballet flats, and more. Most of all, Halie loves to explore what trends—like the rise of doll-like Mary Janes or TikTok’s 75 Hard Style Challenge—can say about culture writ large. (She justifies almost any purchase by saying it’s “for work.”) Halie has previously held writer and editor roles at Glamour, Morning Brew, and Harper’s Bazaar. Halie has been cited as a fashion and beauty expert in The Cut, CNN Underscored, and Reuters, among other outlets, and appears in newsletters like Selleb and Self-Checkout to provide shopping recommendations. In 2022, she was awarded the Hearst Spotlight Award for excellence and innovation in fashion journalism. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Harvard College. Outside of work, Halie is passionate about books, baking, and her miniature Bernedoodle, Dolly. For a behind-the-scenes look at her reporting, you can follow Halie on Instagram and TikTok.