Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The History of Piercing Is Built on Some Fascinating Fibs

Not all of historical body piercing stories are true.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

One of the oldest mummies ever found had holes in his ears, and we know that ancient people inserted all sorts of wood, glass, bone, shells, and ivory into their ears as adornment. But modern piercing actually has its own peculiar origin story, one that twists and riffs on the ancient piercing practices in the history books.

In 1975, Jim Ward and his business partner, Doug Malloy (whose name was actually Richard Simonton, though that’s largely beside the point), opened a piercing studio in New York City called Gauntlet. The shop’s “menu” laid out a wide variety of piercing options, each with their own historical backstories — Roman officers used nipple rings to hold up their capes, Queen Victoria’s husband had a genital piercing — many of which just weren’t true.

But that didn’t stop new, adventurous body piercings from catching on in the ’70s and ’80s punk scenes in NYC and beyond.

Follow Racked on YouTube for more videos | Like Racked on Facebook to never miss a video