At this point, I’ve mastered the art of the soft reveal. I have 16 piercings and counting, to the disappointment of my grandparents and frustration of my parents and confusion of my boyfriend. Although I’m an obsessive piercing planner, I usually don’t share my plans until the post is freshly secured in my ear. I know I’ll be invariably hit with something like “That looks cool now, but what about once you get old?” and frankly, I don’t have an answer!
An expert in this kind of quandary if there ever was one is piercer Cassi Lopez-March. She gained a following at New York Adorned, the Bowery piercing studio notorious for a cult-like following amongst the fashion set. (Zoe Kravitz and FKA Twigs are clients, and J. Colby Smith, who’s probably pierced all of NYFW, worked there for over a decade.) In 2019 Lopez-March struck out on her own with So Gold Studios, which has quickly become the go-to Brooklyn piercing spot and, subsequently, as tricky to get into as Carbone. But for being so busy, Lopez-March was eager to chat about how to style piercings for longevity. “In the long run, you want your jewelry and piercings to be an extension of you and your personal style,” she explains. Through this lens, she’s mastered a styling philosophy that one of her clients coined the “adult ear.” Her before and after transformations (which tend to go viral on Instagram and Tiktok) turn tattoo shop jabs into glittery compositions that function like a dainty ring or fine chain would elsewhere. Perfectly in place on someone who’s grown out of their rebellious phase. As Lopez-March points out, the ability to change your jewelry to suit your lifestyle is part of the magic of piercing.
If you can’t get to So Gold right now, there are still some easy swaps you can do on your own to age up your piercings. Below, her five best tips for adult ears:
Invest in quality jewelry
The number one difference between an adult ear and a teenager let loose at Piercing Pagoda? Jewelry quality. Which Lopez-March clarifies doesn’t have to be an ear full of gold and diamonds. Instead, look for elevated versions of things you already love, with an emphasis on longevity. Cheap metals like brass stain skin green with prolonged wear, plated pieces will have to be replaced more often, and surgical steel offers less versatility. “When I was younger, I didn’t care about that kind of stuff as long as the jewelry I was wearing fit my aesthetic,” Lopez-March tells me. Well-made jewelry also tends to have a lower profile (read: sits closer to your ear), and can be designed specifically for untraditional piercings (like outer and inner cartilage) so they lay better.
Chuck prescriptive matchy-matchy rules
While you can’t go wrong with matched metals and stones, that doesn’t mean mixing ‘em up won’t go right. In fact, a curated mix can add texture and diversity to an otherwise super simple earscape. Think of mixing colored stones and metals in complementary tones as if you’re making a moodboard on each ear. “I have a long-time client who has tons of rose gold, so we used relatively warm stones like smokey quartz, champagne sapphire, and moonstone, for a little iridescent vibe,” Lopez-March explains. On a client who prefers white gold, accents of opal and aquamarine play off of the blue tones. “I don’t mind mixing metals either,” she adds, “as long as everything feels balanced and complementary.”
Know when to exercise restraint
A curated ear looks purposeful. And if you can’t figure out when to stop adding piercings on your own, Lopez-March suggests making a styling appointment and going in with an open mind. “Depending on what a client already has, there are plenty of times I will suggest not adding new piercings,” she says, noting that sometimes additions can create clutter. The right piece of jewelry can fill a space and make another piercing obsolete. And once your ear is styled, you might even realize you want to remove an old piercing and let it close—this can streamline your ear, like a Marie Kondo spring clean for jewelry.
Lean into personalization
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by enviable earscapes on Instagram. But think about this: dressing your ears is a lot like dressing your body. With age you’ve figured out which clothes suit your body best, and because you feel comfortable you also look effortless. If you let your anatomy guide your piercing decisions too, you get something far more personalized and spectacular. “People will DM me all the time to tell me what piercings they currently have and then ask what they should get,” says Lopez-March, “but that depends entirely on the person’s anatomy.” It makes the difference for both aesthetics (where do you have space for new piercings? where does your ear act as a natural frame?) and healing (if a particular area is too shallow or small to support a piercing, it’ll never fully heal).
And always consider your lifestyle
While you can change your earrings often, Lopez-March’s method of styling keeps everyday wear in mind. “If someone is super active and works out a lot, they may want to avoid jewelry and piercings that will prevent them from wearing earbuds or headphones comfortably,” she advises. “Or, if someone has a small puppy or child, they may want to avoid pieces that have lots of hanging bits and chains that might be pulled on or grabbed.” For adult ear success, a realist’s lens helps. Funnily enough? That’s probably true of adult success in general.
Photo via ITG