j colby smith is pioneering multiple piercings
Once reserved for fixtures of the counterculture scene, multiple piercings have made their way into the mainstream, and J. Colby Smith - the guru piercer of New York Adorned in Manhattan’s East Village - has helped usher in the trend. Counting the...
It seems like Girl With The Dragon Tattoo helped usher multiple piercings into the mainstream. Was that something you noticed?
I think even a little bit before that. We had awesome clients even in [the early aughts]. And it wasn't just a certain type of person. I remember my first three weeks with Adorned, we had an opera singer come in. It was just like, 'Wow.' Where I'm from, only a certain type of person got piercings, but New York always gives us the best clients.
Do you see a different type of clientele coming in now than you did five years ago?
I'd say the same type, just more of them. We've always had the actresses, musicians, and models. But now it's thirty a day of young fashionable girls wanting to do this or that.
Is there one type of piercing that's popular with your clients?
For me, I try to push ear stuff. Even when I got into Instagram, I liked the way ears looked because of how anonymous they are. It really is this thing that is on the side of your head that you never look at and there's so many ways to dress it up and decorate it. But, I do everything.
Have you seen a spike in body piercings?
I probably pierce at least five or six nipples every day. All of that stuff is still on the up and up and it's still the same type of younger woman who wants them. That's what so cool about fashion: you can be sixteen and get a piercing or you can be sixty. I think it's one of those things that everyone—for the most part—agrees on.
Frequently with many piercings, all the metal in someone's ear can look heavy yet most of your work remains very delicate.
I always try to talk people down. I try not to do everything all at once because I like building and sitting with things for a minute. I like watching it grow into something. A lot of people come in and they want the look instantly. But that's what's cool about piercings: it takes patience and time; it takes dedication and some suffering. I also try to spread them out and make them look balanced, delicate, and in the right color so that it allows people to do more but not be too much.
I grew up in the 90s, so then getting pierced was all about shock factor, all about being aggressive, all about 'Fuck the norm.' That was really 'How obnoxious can I be with this shit?' I think that we've taken that idea and made it a little more digestible because it really is all the same things, just finer, more delicate, prettier, and higher end.
What's your rubric for which color metal a client should use?
My thing with skin tones is, I don't know if everyone would agree with me, for pink skin tones: rose gold; for dark skin tones: yellow gold. I always try to avoid white gold or surgical steel. I feel like it looks like what you expect a piercing to look like. Yellow gold is just this psychological thing that triggers in your mind: this is more elegant, this costs more money, it's pretty. I mean gold is gold for a reason.
Is there any piercing or jewelry faux pas to watch out for?
Careful with the dangles! They are great if it's the right place and done the right way. But if something doesn't feel right or feels stiff or feels like it doesn't work the way it's supposed to, it's not the right fit. I always like for things to look like they belong to you and not that they're borrowed from somebody else.
Do you ever think someone has too many piercings?
It's always a sad moment for me when someone's gotten to the point of perfection. But there's always a way to juggle jewelry around and make new things. I think this stuff will always be relevant because jewelry will always be relevant. And the more holes you have to wear jewelry, I mean, it's a no brainer. You know, trends and styles might change there will always be ways to adorn it and make it look like it should look, whether it's with LED lights or fucking whatever is trendy. [Laughs]
Text Elizabeth Hunt Brockway
Photography Andrea Ibarra