“So I want to completely express my rebellious side and individuality to the world. I want to be different and daring and an interesting mystery wrapped in an enigma encased in a cool person to know. I know! If I have a tattoo or a piercing then maybe Keanu Reeves will fancy me. Woah – I could get both and hook Kurt Cobain! Better make sure I have them done where Mom can’t see though.”
Yes, that is how I and millions of other 1990s teens thought. With my
pierced belly button and my midriff tattoo I really was an individual. Just like all of the other kids in my school! I didn’t get Keanu but that spotty geek with the Doogie Howser hair really thought I was hot stuff.
Of all of the fashion fads of the 1990’s, tattoos and piercings were the most painful and the most permanent. Piercing and tattoos have been around in all civilizations for centuries, although their introduction to the Western World has been a little more recent. The fashion of the 1990s, however, saw for the first time piercings leaving the realm of bikers, sailors and prison yards and entering the mainstream fashion scene. Even 90s supermodel Stephanie Seymour had a complete wrap around ankle tattoo.
The popularity of piercings shot to the stars in the 1990s partly due to the rise of the Indie and Grunge scenes. Piercings were seen in ears (multiple times), noses and faces (such as the brave Madonna style of piercing where a stud was placed in the same place that Madonna wore her fake beauty spot). The absolute biggest trend was to have a belly button piercing. This was quickly followed by the trend for ultra short tops (see our study on bare midriffs in the 90s).
I had my belly button pierced in 1996 and then went straight home to chop all of my tops as short as I could. My friend went one better in adopting the nineties fashion "no pain no gain" philosophy and had a double belly button piercing—one at the top and one at the bottom.
Not wanting her to bag Kiefer Sutherland before I could, I saw her double piercing and raised her a tattoo—a strawberry on my thigh. Ten years and 2 kids later the pips now have an authentic dimpled look. That is more thanks to yummy mummy cellulite than the skill of the tattoo artist though.
Late 1990s women’s fashion also saw the invention of temporary 3 year tattoos. Jumping on the bandwagon I decided to have The Saint on my then taut, belly button pierced, short-topped lower midriff. Ten years later it is still going strong. Surely there is a lawsuit in there somewhere!
So if 90’s fashion ever comes around again in the form of piercings and tattoos, take my advice. Stick with the piercing (removable) and skip the tattoos, especially the ever-so-permanent temporary 3 year kind!