Ear stretching—tremendously trendy or downright disgusting?
Body piercing has become mainstream in modern society and youths participating in many subcultures now have a growing interest in ear stretching. Some think of the growing popularity as stylish, while others, particularly the older generation, find the trend to be remotely repulsive.
While the ear stretching has just recently become popular in modern society, the custom dates back to indigenous people in ancient times. Tribes in various countries—such as Africa, Eurasia, and America —have practiced the ritual of ear stretching for cultural, religious, and traditional motives. Historically, the practice has been used for the purpose of tribal status, to scare enemies in war, and for beautification. Ancient figures, such as King Tutankhamen, Otzi the Iceman, and Siddhartha Gautama, prove that ear stretching is about as old as human history, along with scarring, tattooing, branding, and hairstyling. For men, the practice has generally been used to indicate the authority of tribe members; the bigger the stretching, the higher the ranking. Women, on the other hand, have historically stretched their ears for decorative purposes and also to signify that a girl has reached womanhood.
Now people of all races, rankings, and ages are adapting to the modernized style. Celebrities, such as Chester Bennington from Linkin Park, Adam Lambert from American Idol, and Brandon Boyd from Incubus, have stretched ears anywhere from 4 gauge (5.19 mm) to 1 inch (25.4 mm). Plugs are now made of thousands of different styles, colors, and materials, and can be found at any mall, including stores like Hot Topic and Spencer’s.
There are two ways to apply this style to one’s ears: gradually stretching the skin using different sized tapers, which are cone-shaped pieces of jewelry, or dermal punching for immediate results. Tapering with at least a month between each size is the smartest way to stretch ears, but it can be pricey. Each time one wants to go up a size, new tapers are needed as well as new plugs.
While body modifications are becoming more socially acceptable over time, the decision can potentially ruin one’s future career. While some hate to admit it, the truth is that few- to-no professional teachers, cops, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etcetera are hired with stretched ears. Unlike tattoos and some piercings, stretched ears are nearly impossible to hide and the beauty statement eliminates the ability to wear normal earrings, which can be a downfall for women in a professional environment.
Along with the possibility of not being able to acquire a desired job due to ear stretching, health risks come along with the decision. While the risks are minimal, they vary from person to person. Most properly stretched ears do not create a wound and, depending on the elasticity of one’s ear, most heal well after stretching. Over-stretching or stretching too fast, known as blowouts, can cause scar tissue. Quickly stretching or skipping sizes can cause bleeding and infection. For many, going to a half-inch (12.7 mm) is known as the point of no return and minor surgery is needed if one wants their ears to return back to a normal state. In some cases, ears stretched too large or improperly cannot be corrected.
While it is known worldwide that body modifications are becoming a thing of the future, I strongly recommend thoroughly thinking the idea through before making a decision to stretch your ears. If you aspire to someday be a leader in the community or work in a professional setting, think twice before mutating your earlobes. It may seem like a guiltless decision now, but could be one of your biggest regrets in the future. You never know what opportunities may arise and whom you will be competing against.