Picture this: You, a stylish person with cool friends, decide that you want to get your ears pierced to celebrate your birthday. Do you go to a body piercing shop where the piercers are expert but the customer base is, too? Or do you drag a group of adults to the nearest mall for a Claire’s throwback?
This was the essential dilemma behind the founding of Studs, a millennial- and Gen Z–marketed piercing studio that opened its first PNW location in Capitol Hill on July 28. It’s the brand’s 13th store in its seventh state—numbers I’m choosing to see as lucky, for the purposes of allowing a stranger to punch a hole in my head (my mom's words, not mine).
Ear piercings beyond the simple lobe or cartilage variety have become significantly more popular in recent years, a trend driven in part by Studs, which was founded at the end of 2019. "Earscaping," the brand's anatomy-informed method of ear-based maximalism, can be "beautiful," even "dainty looking," says Studs brand manager Martha Upton. Known elsewhere as a “curated ear,” the idea has brought the full gamut of ear piercings—helix, rook, conch, tragus—into the mainstream. (Not familiar with the vernacular? Scroll down to the end of this story for a visual guide.)
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Studs’s bright Capitol Hill studio, staffed by fashionable young people who sport upwards of a dozen piercings per ear. Even the wall facing the wavy display counter seems to have been pierced with dozens of gold symbols in the shape of Studs earrings: snakes, daggers, butterflies. It is, to say the least, an earful.
Any misgivings I have about adding another to my repertoire—approximately two-and-a-half lobe piercings per ear (some left unused long enough to heal up) and a single cartilage hoop—quickly transform into something like piercing FOMO. Why haven’t I heard of “stacked lobes” before? Am I brave enough to tackle an inner ear piercing? Would just one more be enough?
Studs allows customers to get up to two piercings at a time; the tradeoff, of course, being that you have to heal two new piercings instead of one (sort of the Gen Z equivalent of having twins). Some come in with a master plan for what their “earscape” will ultimately look like, in which case the piercer can advise on placement—if you’re planning a conch in the future, that might affect where you place your midi piercing, for example.
Others, like me, have absolutely zero clue, in which case the piercer can help you decide which piercing would be best for your style and anatomy. This is how I discover that I hardly have a tragus to speak of, nor do I have room for a daith. Trying not to be insecure about this, I decide on a single midi piercing and a 2.5mm titanium earring with lavender cubic zirconia.
After patiently helping me make a life decision, my piercer leads me back to one of Studs’s three piercing rooms (making it among the company’s largest locations). I’ve been pierced in a tattoo parlor before; this place is significantly brighter and less intimidating, with white walls, a sparkly piercing bench, and an anti-faint juice box sitting on a shelf next to a container full of neon hair clips. Less intimidating, even, than the strangely public piercing chair at Claire's.
The method—a needle, rather than a sketchy piercing gun—looks exactly like what you’ll find at body piercing studios. The care kit, which comes with a tote bag on opening day, is cuter. Do I walk away a dedicated earscaper? Not entirely; I'm still having some post-poke uncertainty. But if I decide to get another piercing, or two, or seven, I know exactly where to go.
Things to know before getting pierced:
- Appointments are recommended, but not required.
- Eat something and stay hydrated, so you don’t have to make use of that juice box.
- Bring your ID (Studs only pierces adults) and a mask to wear during the piercing.
- Be prepared to tip your piercer via Venmo: Studs recommends $20 for good service, $30 for great, $40 for excellent.