Flashback to my 15-year-old self and I’d do just about anything to convince my parents to let me get my belly button pierced. I truly thought my life was over that day my mom gave me her final “hard no” on the body piercing. It was the early 00s, so it was the hottest thing to do and all the coolest celebrities, like Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, had the piercing. All I wanted was a cute little belly ring I could show off with my low-rise jeans and a baby tee—I’m not alone right?
Fast-forward a solid decade later, and here I am craving the same early-’00s look. Low-rise loose jeans? Check—I have those in my closet. Baby tee? I probably own 10 too many. All I’m missing is a belly ring, which up until a couple months ago, I thought I was glad I avoided the piercing back when I was 15. Keep reading to find out why I changed my mind and meet the extremely talented bicoastal piercer, J. Colby Smith, who is tempting me to pull the trigger 13 years later. Plus, see why they are so much chicer than they were back in 2000.
I’m noticing that there’s a return of belly button rings and know you have pierced a couple of girls. Can you share a bit about the “fitted sleepers”?
I think a lot of what I see happening is a little bit of just listening to people and what’s happening, is that a lot of women have gotten pierced when they were you know 15, 16, or 17, and usually the first one that everyone gets is the navel piercing, so they do it and they wear it for a while and then they grow up a bit and they take it out because it’s a little oversize or clunky and it’s got a little birthstone in there or something like that. So what I see a lot of times is women who end up with a scar and I’m sitting there working on their ears or doing their nipple or something else and they are like, oh I have this scar that I hate so much, so what I’ve really been trying to do is just resurrect it, and instead of them being left with a scar that they don’t like or that they, you know, feel self-conscious about in a bathing suit or something like that. It’s like, in my mind, what better than to just add one more hole to put a nice piece of jewelry in, and I would much rather see, and I think most everyone would rather see, a nice little piece of gold there instead of a scar.
So the majority of the navel piercings you perform are on women wanting to cover up scars?
Yeah, I would say the majority of what I end up doing is resurrecting, I just resurrect something they don’t like about themselves and make it into a thing that they really love about themselves.
I know back in the day the whole navel ring thing was super clunky like you mentioned the whole bar and something dangling or whatever. What I’ve seen with your work is you’ve really created this simple little ring. The “fitted sleeper” you call it. Can you tell me about that?
Yeah, it’s something that we make in-house. My overall aesthetic is minimal and delicate. So, you know, I really try to translate all of that with the jewelry. And I think what I’m really looking forward to is just minimalism and just really soft. I don’t want it to look like you’re really into piercings. I want it to look like you have a nice piece of jewelry if that makes sense.
Let’s talk needles and scarring.
The smaller the needle you use, the less scarring, but yeah, I mean I’ll say this, with all piercings, they will leave some kind of mark, especially something on your navel since it’s a really flat part of your body that’s super exposed. For needle sizing, back in the day, it was common to use 14 or 12 gauge, which is bigger and thicker and more aggressive. Today, for the navel, I typically use a 16 gauge if you were starting off with a new piercing.
See below for the “sleepers” Smith pierces with, and stay tuned because I’m highly considering stopping by Smith’s famed L.A. spot and finally adding the accessory to my body. I will share updates, but until then, check out his IG (and below) for more piercing inspiration, and if you live in Los Angeles or Brooklyn, book your next piercing with J. Colby Smith here.
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