Valeria Morales entered a shop on the Venice boardwalk to get her septum pierced and thought, “Why not?”
The first-year statistics student already had 10 piercings, including two cartilage piercings and a belly button piercing. Two of Morales’ friends had just gotten their septa pierced and she liked how it looked, she said.
Worried she would look like a bull, Morales tested out fake septum rings she bought online to see how they looked on her. She liked the boldness.
Morales and other UCLA students are attracted to piercings not because of the rebellious stereotype, but because they said piercings are in fashion.
The perception of piercings has changed throughout history. In the 1980s and 1990s, piercings received more intense reactions and had different meanings, said Ritchie Love, the master piercer and manager of Ancient Adornments in Westwood.
If a man had his left ear pierced, people would assume he was a felon, Love said. Piercings were also often oversized and bulky until the early 2000s. Although styles of piercings have evolved, they have always been fashionable, Love said.
“Gems, gold and bling are never going to go out of style,” Love said. “It’s never going to be a trend that goes away … it will just evolve.”
First-year environmental science student Keely Watland has 10 ear piercings. Watland said it was a personal choice to get all of her piercings, but some of the inspiration came from her cultural roots. Body modification is an aspect of culture, especially for people in tribes, Watland said.
“My family has a lot of piercings. We’re Pacific Islander, so we’re very into tattoos and piercings and doing things to our bodies,” Watland said.
Piercings are an easy way to appear fashionable, Watland said. After she cut her hair sophomore year of high school, she wanted to add more accessories to her look.
“I think (the piercing) accentuates my face,” Watland said. “People are very drawn to this part of me.”
First-year undeclared physical sciences student Abbegayle Young said her piercings also accentuate her personal style. She has 12 piercings, one in her rook, two in her cartilage, a hoop in her nose and one in her belly button.
“All together (my piercings) have meaning,” Young said. “They are a way to be self-expressive and stand out.”
Young said piercings are popular among her peers because piercings don’t require the commitment and meaning of a tattoo. Because she has so many, she tries to keep her earrings small and simple.
Love said many piercing requests he gets are similar to the piercings Young has. Most customers want small holes that leave small scars and can still showcase cute jewelry. People want their piercings to be confined to smaller spaces on their ears, he said.
Sara Thomas, a third-year art history student, said seeing other students with multiple piercings influenced the trend.
“Piercings … are a really good form of expression,” Thomas said. “They can look really pretty and you can take care of them easily.”
Thomas has 10 piercings, but she didn’t get her first piercing until the summer before college, she said. During her first visit to a piercing shop, she pierced her ear three times. When she gets new piercings, she thinks about composition and aesthetic.
Thomas said although students are willing to try out the trend, her parents were not the biggest fans of her piercings. Young’s dad thought her piercing was unprofessional, but eventually they warmed up to it, she said.
“My parents are really proper,” Thomas said. “I’m like the artistic oddball.”
Although Morales didn’t intend to be rebellious, she still hasn’t told her parents about her septum piercing because she is afraid of their response.
“Older generations are a little reluctant about it still,” Morales said.
Piercings are more of a norm today, but there is still some rebellious expression in them, Love said.
“It’s more socially accepted, but at the end of the day you still want to feel like a badass,” Love said.