Plugs, stretchers and tapers, made out of stone, wood, plastic, acrylic, silicone and steel line the shelves at the Urban Body Piercing and Tattoo studio in downtown Davis. These are all different types of earrings specifically for stretched ears, which is becoming a growing trend.
According to Avi Shay, Urban Body owner and professional piercer, ear stretching is a way to explore different things from the world. It originated from various indigenous groups in Africa, and is still an aspect of some cultures today.
Shay thinks that the reason for the rise in popularity of stretched ears in the last six or seven years is especially because of social media. “It’s all over the place, [with] famous people as well.” Shay says.
Although these piercings are becoming more common, the correct terminology is not commonly used. Many think that saying “gauges” or having “gauged ears” is the correct terminology when talking about stretched ear piercings; when gauge is actually the measurement or size of an earring that fits into the stretched piercing. The correct terms to describe the piercing itself would be stretched ears or ear modification.
This type of body art is sometimes perceived as inappropriate or strange to others. Some are quick to judge the wearer based on their appearance.
“It looks unprofessional, it just makes them seem kind of punk and not serious,” sophomore Suleikha Sutter said, when asked about her first impressions about stretched ears.
Sophomore Martha Fiehn briefly considered stretching her ears before deciding not to. Regarding her decision not to do so, Fiehn said, “Other people make assumptions about [the earrings] very quickly. So it could hinder people from getting the respect they deserve, because society always has stereotypes…and people with stretched ears do fall under a more negative stereotype.”
The reasons behind stretched ears are mostly because people want to take part in a rising trend that is unique. Other reasons include spiritual causes or wanting to express themselves through this form of body art.
“They want to be a part of the change; they just want to express themselves. Other reasons could be for cosmetic purposes, or just to look ‘cool,’” Shay said.
“I decided to get gauges because of the look, the cool earrings they sell and just the rich culture behind them,” sophomore Bri Yount said. Yount has stretched two sets of piercings in her ears, and is currently at size 7/16 inches.
But to others, they do not like the appearance or idea behind modified ears.
“I don’t mind smaller sized [plugs], but the bigger ones are gross and unacceptable. Many people find them disgusting,” Sutter said.
To those who have decided to stretch their ears, many are happy with their decision and have had positive experiences. Some of them are glad to be a part of something different.
“My experience with [my piercings] has been great. I truly love having them, and there’s absolutely no flaws with them,” sophomore Blake Croft said.
Although the number of stereotypes and assumptions about modified ears has grown concordantly with the amount of modified ears itself, society is becoming more accepting of those who have chosen to stretch their ears.
Shay says, “I think it’s getting better, it’s more accepted now, you can see it in youths, […] you can see nose piercings on older people too, not like in the older days with just ear piercing.”