Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Septum Piercings: A Trend Exploration

Growing up in a rural, conservative Texas town, the mere mention of a septum piercing (the small bit of cartilage between the nostrils) immediately conjured up images of offbeat rocker Marilyn Manson or…well, a bull. Even when I decided to rage against the machine at the ripe age of 14 and get my eyebrow pierced under the cover of darkness, I still thought that decision was far less outrageous than a full-fledged septum ring. Besides, back then Fergie had her eyebrow pierced and, to 14-year-old me, that was the most badass thing possibly of all time. But now the tables have turned and the fashion world has unceremoniously ushered in a newer more ‘hip’ version of the septum piercing.

A far cry from the large, unsightly steel barbells of the mid to late 90’s, today’s septum rings appeal to a much different audience than they ever have before. Gunge rockers and gothic Mohawk sporting rebels were historically the types of people we were used to seeing with such body manipulations, but now small, dainty septum piercings are appearing on the faces of young, thin, beautiful women all across the Tumblr-sphere.

Although septum piercing is in no way a ‘new’ thing (in many ancient tribes warriors pierced their septum with animal bones, teeth, or tusk as a sign of power and ferocity), the types of people we now seeing with them are decidedly new. The recent trend has become especially prevalent in young women just within the past three years or so. The piercing’s popularity can be defined in today’s terms as ‘just edgy enough’, all but replacing the belly button, nostril, or even second earlobe as the piercing of choice for girls who want to seem alternative, but not too alternative.

The septum piercings of today are normally small and underplayed, and can therefore appeal to a much wider range of women than they did previously. For example, in the 80’s and 90’s when punk rock and gothic became prevalent as a fashion subculture, but the images associated with the subculture appealed only to a niche audience. Women and men who saw themselves as part of that subculture had a very distinctive look, and the fashion styles, to say the least, weren’t for everyone. Septum piercings from just a couple decades ago were more likely to conjure images of people like this:

Or this:

Or sometimes even this:

There’s nothing wrong with 90’s punk metal emo gothic or whatever you might call that. Personal opinions aside, I think we can all agree that at first glance these styles are surprising. Before this recent trend of women in high fashion adorning themselves with dainty septum chains, the older assumptions of what types of people actually pierced their septum was much narrower. The piercing used to be associated with a certain brand of person—well, not anymore.

Facial piercings in general had a definite stigma attached to them well into the 21st century and through the early 2000’s. It’s nearly impossible to determine when exactly this new, trendy, acceptable and ‘cute’ septum piercing came to be, but I do think it’s safe to say that the septum is to 2013-2015 as the belly button piercing was to the early 2000’s. The septum has become mainstreamed. By which I mean cute, predominantly straight edge girls, who just 5 or more years prior would never have dreamed of piercing the cartilage in their nose, have adopted the trend and are currently running with it.

Sarah Cunningham, a 22-year-old college student from Utah, pierced her septum back in 2012, just before the trend exploded in popularity.

“I loved my septum piercing; it became a part of me that I really connected to” said Cunningham, “I had a fair amount of haters, but I loved it.”

While her friends all gushed over the chicness and simplicity of her new piercing, not everyone appreciated it. Her grandmother (who she lived with at the time) berated her endlessly, claiming the small ring made her look like a pig and that she wouldn’t help Sarah pay off her new car unless she took it out. After months of dealing with her grandmothers relentless lectures Sarah decided her shiny new jewelry wasn’t worth her grandmother’s disapproval and took the little ring out. But even though she now has the option to have it re-pierced, she expresses her dissatisfaction with the jewelry’s’ newfound popularity amongst the young and trendy.

“Now [septum piercings] are a pretty common and trendy thing, which is unfortunate because they used to be such a unique thing to me. Now the septum piercing is attached to a style, a style that isn’t really me. So if I were to get it again I would feel like people thought I was trying to go for some serious trendy look and only making it half way. That’s not what I want. It’s crazy how fashion and society can take something as simple as a piercing and transform it into such a huge personal statement.”

Sarah is just one of the many women I’ve known from my time in college who have jumped aboard the bandwagon and gotten their septum done—most of the time it does look pretty cute. Still, you know something has truly hit its pinnacle of mainstreamity when glamorous A-listers sign on too. Take, for example, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga:



Her majesty Rihanna

Lady Gaga

While these celebs gave into the hype of trend pressure, they weren’t the ones guiding this fad train. Images of dainty, ornate septum piercings began appearing on the young faces of up and coming models and musicians such as Cailin Russo and FKA Twigs. Victoria’s Secret model Candice Swanepoel even dawned a faux septum ring for her Russian Vogue spread in August 2013.

The ever-perfect Cailin Russo with septum jewelry on her Instagram
British singer/songwriter FKA Twigs

Candice Swanepoel in Russian Vogue 2013
The septum piercing’s newfound appeal, however, comes from its unspoken exclusivity—not just anyone can pull it off. While plenty of people, as they always do, have tried and will continue to try and rock a septum ring, it takes a certain type of person to truly pull off the desired look. If you go too big with the jewelry and it overwhelms your face, it’s a no go. If your nose is generally large, sorry, but it’s a no go. If you aren’t very cute, have terrible style, and never wash your hair, it’s probably also a no go. The septum piercing isn’t for you. The ability to adequately rock a septum ring lies within juxtaposition. Historically, the septum has been associated with hardassness and ferocity; it can look harsh if the person wearing it doesn’t have a soft enough style to balance it out.

Taylor Reifurth, 21, decided to get her septum pierced on a whim after she decided her single nostril stud wasn't enough.
Taylor with her nostril stud & septum ring

"My friend Steph was getting her ears pierced and I got my septum. I got it because of basically two reasons," Reifurth said "when I went to Vegas to model for American Apparel, they made me take my rose ring out and after that I couldn’t get the hoop in, only a stud. And that’s lame as fuck."

The way I see it, septum piercings are slowly but surely becoming the new nostril hoop or multiple cartilage piercing. While septum rings have heretofore been worn by those who walk to the beat of their own drum, they are now also being worn by sweet, basic girls, who have developed a sudden desire to dip a toe (or a nose) into the tantalizing pool of the hardcore.

Still, I feel it important to add, at least as a disclaimer to this piece, that I take no issue with cute girls who have septum piercings. I’d advise that any inherent snark that might make its way to the surface in all of this be taken with a grain of salt. I’m just bitter that my nose will never be small or button-y enough to cash in on this passing trend.

Maybe I’ll just go the Lil Wayne route and settle for a nice set of diamond teeth implants instead…carpe diem right? 

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