Septum piercings (yes, the piercing going through the middle section of your nose) are making a comeback—not that they really ever left, they’ve actually been around for thousands of years. If you’re looking to get one yourself, I completely understand—I’ve been there, done that myself. But I wasn’t prepared beforehand and didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into. Because I’m simply the best, here’s everything you ever wondered about septum piercings, from someone who has one. You’re welcome!
According to Jewellerybox, septum piercings are one of the most popular piercings in the world, and no, you don’t have to be a part of punk rocker culture to have one. Actress Jessica Biel, Rihanna, FKA Twigs, Zendaya and Zoë Kravitz have all worked the look in the past, and the list of fashion icons rocking septum piercings has only grown since then. Many people will be drawn to and wear jewellery without knowing the significance or history behind it, so just to pay it homage: septum nose rings were mainly practiced by Northern American Indian tribes, but have been seen all over the world.
The Shawnee leaders like Tecumseh, the people of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea wore septum rings as well. People of the Asmat tribe of Irian Jaya used large thick bone plugs as septum jewellery, made from tibia bones of enemies killed in wars or the leg bones of pigs. Like other bodily embellishments, the reasons for having them differ from culture to culture. Some North American tribes see the ring as a rite of passage after successful return from a soul searching journey in the wilderness, while Aboriginals used septum piercings to ‘beautify’. The Aztecs, Mayans and Incans adorned their septum piercings with gold and jade for religious reasons too, then within Western societies, the piercings became connected to subcultures like the punk rock movement and was seen as a sign of rebellion.
There’s a lot to know about the history of why humans adopt aesthetics in fashion, and I’d highly recommend going down a Wikipedia wormhole to learn a little more, but for now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of septum piercings: what they’re like to have, how painful they are to get, how quickly they heal, and what happens if you decide you’d rather not have one anymore.
Yes, of course getting a piece of your body pushed into and through by a sharp object will be painful. I give it a six and a half out of ten, but it will vary for everyone. That being said, it doesn’t last long, and it’s nothing like a nipple piercing with a solid nine point eight out of ten on the painometre. Make sure your piercer has experience, and lots of it: cut no corners on this one (same goes for a nip piercing). The piercer has to reach a tricky position in the septum, known as the ‘sweet spot’, as you need to be careful not to penetrate the cartilage which is right next door. The shape of your nose is also something to consider. Because some septums are more deviated than others, if you don’t have someone who knows what they’re doing, you could end up with a wonky piercing smack bang in the middle of your face. Not cool.
The septum will either be pierced freehand, which is what I had done, where the piercer uses a cannula (a hollow needle attached to a tube) to pierce your nose and then thread the piercing through, or by clamping the area. Expect to ball your eyes out—not because of the pain, but because your nose’s natural response when being pinched is to secrete tears. The actual piercing time, even with a tube, is very quick (about a minute). It’s a sharp sensation that (once the needle is out and jewellery is transferred) will feel hot or warm afterwards, and you might feel the need to sneeze. In the early days, your piercing will wobble to your walk, but it isn’t painful, it might even tickle a bit—but don’t touch it, keep your grubby paws off the schnoz unless you want it to get infected!
Patience, my friends, will be your best friend. A septum piercing is on the lengthier side of heal-time. After eight weeks, it will feel significantly better, but it can take up to six months to be completely healed. It is in your nose, which is a mucosal surface, and will remain wetter than other areas of your body. This means it will take longer to heal. The after-care is a standard piercing cleaning procedure, saline-soak twice a day, dry the skin, and like I said earlier, no playing with it.
I personally didn’t try to change my first septum ring over to something else until a year had passed, and I couldn’t actually do it myself: I went back to the piercer with my tail between my legs and asked him to do it for me. Anyway, to start, you’ll probably get a circular barbell ring, which is also easy to hide if you so wish—you just turn it upside down and tuck it into your nose.
If you get bored of your septum piercing, there’s good news: you just take it out and leave it. The hole will close, and you won’t see it again (unless you inspect the inner workings of your nostrils on the reg’). You might be able to feel a little scar tissue where the hole used to be, like any other piercing, but that shouldn’t bother you.
This depends on the studio you visit, and the country you live in. That being said, in the UK you can expect to pay anywhere from £20 to £80. Also, consider what type of jewellery is being used. Most piercers use surgical stainless steel (SSS), because it’s generally safe, non-absorbable, has a low rate of nickel release (which some may be allergic to) and it’s inexpensive. Titanium metals are also used, it’s hypoallergenic and safe for everyone, but it is a little more expensive. You could opt for solid gold too, obviously this is pricier and it needs to be 14 karat or higher and not ‘gold-plated’, because these usually contain alloys (including nickel). After your piercing is fully healed, you could invest in a solid gold piece of jewellery, but as a first piercing I’d opt for a cheaper and just as safe option, in case you don’t like how it looks or feels.
The mullet, the hockey hair, the Kentucky waterfall, the Missouri compromise, the short/long hairstyle (or whatever you call it)—the all encompassing and unignorable hairstyle is the definition of ‘business up front, party in the back’. With a fluctuating popularity over the decades, it’s been creeping around our peripheral visions (and art schools) for the past five years or so, but now, the trend is back in full force. Although having been sported worldwide since the 1980s, the hairdo has been around for a lot longer than the majority of us think. Are you ready for some history, and possibly a fresh cut? Because I’m half way swayed already.
Let’s go back in time, shall we? The well known Greek poet Homer once described the Abantes, which was a group of spearmen, as wearing “their forelocks cropped, hair grown long at the backs” in his poem The Iliad. Just to put into perspective how long people have been rocking the hairdo, this was written in the 8th century Before the Common Era (BCE). If you really think about it, the hairstyle is practicality at its finest: adaptable in shape, and it keeps your neck warm and dry without getting in your eyes. There’s a reason Alan Henderson wrote a book called Mullet Madness, a history of the look—if you really want to dig your teeth into more. For now though, here’s a brief overview for the curious.
The term ‘mullet’ wasn’t officially coined until 1994, thanks to the Beastie Boys’ song ‘Mullet Head’, but in ancient Rome, what was referred to as a ‘Hun cut’ was an early style that wealthy young ‘hooligans’ wore in the 6th century BC. These groups supported the popular sport (back then) of chariot racing. Another writer, the Greek-Byzantine scholar Procopius, described the look in his Secret History manifesto, writing that “The hair on their heads they cut off in front back to the temples, leaving the part behind to hang down to a very great length in a senseless fashion.”
According to History, in the late 18th century, Ben Franklin used his ‘skullet’ to help charm France into increasing its financial and diplomatic support of America. With his new, albeit rather rogue and free hairstyle in the days of perfect wig wearing, Franklin looked the role of a “rough-hewn new world sage” which shocked French courts, but also promoted revolutionary vision. In the US, the style goes all the way back to Native American tribes that often combined a mullet and a mohawk.
The 70s came along, and so did David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona. A bright orange waterfall plummeting from the roof of his head was enough to turn everyone’s attention, and the trend (as we know it) was reborn. Bowie was famous for his androgynous style, and this one particular hairstyle captured its essence in the way that traditionally, females had long hair and males rocked it short, while he had the best of both worlds. The musician first wore the hairstyle in the year of his coming out press conference.
The look defined a decade, and effectively “pushed the margins of hair and dress” according to hair historian Janet Stephens—it was the decade that really challenged ideas on identity and gender boundaries.
The trend cascaded into a masquerade of ‘out there’ mullets, from other famous artists like Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, and even Patrick Swayze (from Dirty Dancing) who had a short-lived moment with the hairstyle. Kiefer Sutherland’s character in The Lost Boys, and many others followed their lead, including the highstreet, also known as the rest of us. It also blurred into the 80s, with Metallica’s James Hetfield, Billy Ray Cyrus, and the list really could go on and on. The attraction to it was that fundamentally, the style fit all kinds of people and cultures, with the common cause of acting rebelliously.
The 90s brought a sad and slow decline of the trend, people’s opinions started to change, and the masses no longer wanted to look ‘scruffy’, but instead freshly cut and ‘clean’. The style started to wear a bit of taboo, according to Dazed the hairstyle “depicted low-income families in backwater towns, redneck dudes in dive bars who clung to their beloved country music.” In 2010, Iran actually banned the cut, hoping to stop the spread of what it called as a “western invasion.”
Since around 2018, the trend has been creeping back. Then all it took was one uproar of reason to rebel (as its reason to exist back in the 70s) and the trend is now bustling towards a comeback. 2020, the year of flustered change in all senses, was all it took.
It may or may not have been egged on by the fact that hairdressers were forced shut due to the pandemic lockdown measures. People just pressed the ‘fuck it’ button on grooming tendencies, and fair enough! Not only is the hairdo easy to achieve by yourself in the mirror, due to the fact that you can literally just ignore what’s going on in the back, but New York hairstylist Magda Ryczko also told Men’s Health Magazine that “It’s the perfect haircut for a Zoom meeting,” continuing in saying that “It’s business in the front and party in the back. Or these days, it’s business in the front and a small gathering of six or less in the back.”
So whether you’re ready for it, or like it or not, mullets are back, baby! And I’m here for it. So, if you have semi-long hair, or hair at least reaching your earlobes, here’s how you can fix those locks into a look: just chop down the front sides and top until you want to stop. No neatness necessary. Worse comes to worst, shave it all off? Skinheads are in too.