Striving to enhance his image as an outlaw, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones becomes the most conspicuous straight male since the Blackbeard era to have his ear pierced. By the end of the decade, a couple of hundred rock and roll trendies have followed suit.
Every white heterosexual male between 18 and 25 in the West has had an ear pierced. A great many wind up getting the other one pierced too after learning that an earring only in the original ear is understood among local gay sadomasochists to indicate a penchant for being fisted. The epidemic disagreement about which ear indicates what is thought to have been fomented by the piercing industry.
Los Angeles art school dropout and ex-convict Myron Sneed is able to retire solely on his earnings from tattooing the unspeakable heavy metal foursome Motley Crue. The incidence of tattooing among sailors and Marines plunges as the nation's tattoo artists abandon its seedy waterfronts for suburban malls.
As little diamond studs begin to appear in the earlobes of your more with-it CPA's and lawyers, aghast hipsters take to wearing ornate drop earrings of a sort that would have gotten them beaten to a pulp on the street of any large American metropolitan area only three years before. Such older jumpers on this bandwagon as Bob Dylan and Ted Koppel look perfect idiots.
As drop earrings begin to lose their ability to shock, the sullen young hipsters of Generation X start having other parts of themselves pierced -- nostrils, eyebrows, nipples, tongues, even scrota. Clearly hoping to be seen as a trendsetter, the bass guitarist of the frightful New Jersey pre-grunge group Skid Row hooks one end of a long chain into his ear lobe and the other into the corresponding nostril -- and looks forever after as though he's walking around with history's longest and most obdurate booger.
As the Kinko's Copy Centers and coffeehouses of America become clogged with young bohemians with pierced eyebrows, branding is introduced in San Francisco. Fakir Musafar, the self-proclaimed "modern primitive" guru, explains to the San Francisco Chronicle that branding "reclaims the body from those who would take it away -- the government, churches, parents, mates. By doing these rituals, we say that our bodies belong to us."
As branding comes to be regarded more and more widely as the province of the bridge and tunnel crowd, cutting edge musicians, artists, students, and salesclerks in grimy little record shops in Seattle and Greenwich Village initiate a new craze -- amputation. At first, little toes are lopped off by the hundreds, and Birkenstock stock goes through the ceiling.
At the height of the branding craze, Fakir Musafar observed, "Anytime you look away from the things that keep you busy -- like the telephone, TV, or computers -- you tend to look inward to find expression." This is exactly what takes place, as hipsters who've already had all but the most vital appendages lopped off now take to having expendable internal organs like their appendices and pineal glands surgically purged. "By submitting to these, you know, procedures," Jeff Norris, an employee of Unlistenable Music on Los Angeles's chic Melrose Avenue, observes en route into the OR, "we say that our bodies belong to us."
There is a tattoo parlor in every strip mall in America, and barely a square centimeter of unlinked skin on the body of every sous chef, basketball player, football player, musician, or one-time teenage misfit who wishes to say to the world, “You didn’t hurt me as much as you’d hoped to!” In childhood, such a person might, for instance, have smeared her clothing with feces to shock her tormentors into silence. Now, in adulthood, she has tattooed on her chest the logo of a punk group she liked. As during the height of the piercing epidemic, it seems terribly sad and desperate.
One zany blogger writes a satirical piece for submission to Sports Illustrated about more and more college basketball and football stars having taken to hiring chubby classmates to get the tattoos for which they themselves have run out of space. It is screamingly hilarious, but doesn’t get published.