Nipple piercings are all the rage these days. On TikTok, a trend involves girls looking down their shirts to see their nipple piercings paired with the sound, “Heh heh. Nice.” Before that, those who keep up with the Kardashians couldn’t stop talking about her revealing her nipple piercings in pictures she posted on her Instagram.
But do you know the true history of the nipple ring? Read on for a little piercing history lesson.
The First Men with Nipple Piercings
While they may seem more popular with women these days, the nipple ring actually began as a body modification option for men. The nipple ring was a symbol of masculinity and was meant for accomplished men.
In Ancient Rome, the nipple ring symbolized virility and strength; historians have documented that Julius Caesar wore at least one nipple ring (whether he had both or not is unknown). Some people claim that Roman soldiers had their nipples pierced as a way to wear a cape even when they weren’t wearing their armor. For those of us who have nipple rings, we all know that’s very, very tricky and could even be quite painful. Due to this, many people discredit this cape-wearing claim.
Continuing the trend of getting nipple rings as a sign of accomplishment, back when the world existed of European countries and the rest of the world was considered undiscovered or “new,” sailors would get a nipple ring to signify journeys of far longitudes or latitudes, especially if their trip went past the equator.
It is also rumored that the Kabyle of northern Algeria practiced nipple piercing, but no concrete evidence exists.
One thing we know for sure is that there is recorded evidence of males in the Karankawa, a now-extinct Native American tribe, piercing their nipples. In fact, historians say nipple piercing was practiced extensively.
The First Woman with Nipple Rings
While it’s been largely debated by historians, many people attribute Isabella (Isabeau) of Bavaria, the Queen of France, as the first woman with nipple piercings. It is said that she was fond of a plunging neckline that showed off her décolletage. Because she loved this style so much, she designed “garments of the grand neckline,” whose necklines actually descended to the navel. With these dresses, she was able to show off her pierced nipples, each with diamonds that often connected to gold or pearl chains, off.
Soon, the craze caught on, and many aristocratic women were getting their “little apples of paradise,” Isabella’s 14th-century euphemism for nipples, pierced throughout the 14th and 15th centuries.
However, many historians refute the fact that Isabella of Bavaria had her nipples pierced, citing the fact that she often acted as regent while her husband was ill. They claim that anyone in her position would act modestly and with decorum.
In the late 1890s, expensive Parisian jewelry shops began selling “bosom rings,” which went through the nipple. Some women even wore one on each side with a chain connecting the two, just like Isabella of Bavaria did. In addition to adding decoration to the chest, the nipple ring was supposed to enlarge the breast and keep it in a state of arousal.
This wasn’t received well by the rest of society, especially the males and medical professionals. Women’s bodies used to just be there for breastfeeding, getting pregnant, and birthing offspring, but now they were tied to pleasure. Therefore, those who had their nipples pierced were rebelling; they were rejecting society’s standards of what a woman should be and how she should behave. The women who could afford bosom rings were seen as rebellious, but there were no negative repercussions to that.
Due to society’s rather Puritan mindset, it’s no wonder that the nipple piercing soon went out of style. The nipple ring was seen as vulgar, something that disrupted breastfeeding, and something painful. These messages were put out by medical professionals and other men who wanted women to maintain their prudish nature.
The Early 1900s
Ethel Granger, a world record holder for having the narrowest documented waist size, wasn’t always modified. In the early 1920s, she wore what every woman was wearing—shapeless and plain clothing. It wasn’t until she met her husband, astronomer William Arnold Granger, that she started to modify her body.
William Granger required Ether to wear a corset so that she would eventually have a narrower waist. Following her husband’s request, she wore her corset constantly and eventually cinched her waist down to just under 13 inches in circumference.
William Granger was also a bit of a fetishist and he soon began piercing Ethel. Eventually, she had her nostrils, nipples, septum, and ear cartilage pierced.
The 1950s & 60s
Nipple piercings weren’t really popular again until the 1950s and 60s when pioneers Jim Ward and Fakir Musafar pierced their nipples. Even then, they were really only popularized in the queer and kink communities. Some people would get only one nipple pierced and some people would get both pierced.
In the BDSM scene, where nipple piercing was becoming popular, dominants often pierced their subs’ nipples. This ritual symbolizes the dominant’s ownership of the submissive (sub). The dominant would attach chains and tethers to the nipple piercings. Additionally, the dominant (dom) may even attach bells to the sub’s nipple ring so that whenever they sounded, it was a form of humility for the sub.
Today, in the BDSM scene, dominants typically pierce their left nipple to indicate that they are dominant while submissive types pierce their right nipple.
Nipple Piercings Today
While celebrities have definitely popularized nipple piercings, there are still other reasons why women are getting their nipples pierced.
Body modification can be a very freeing and humbling experience. It can be used to help you view your body differently. That’s why many women who are survivors of sexual abuse or assault get their nipples pierced; it helps them reconnect with their bodies. It also disrupts what most of society sees as a “typical beautiful body,” and that subversion is purposeful as these women reclaim their power and control over their bodies.
The Main Point
While it’s hard to say exactly how long the nipple ring has been around, it is safe to say it’s been around for some time now. The reason why people sought after nipple piercings has evolved and it can be different for everyone these days.
Some people just like how it looks, others are involved in the BDSM community, some are trying to reclaim their sexuality and body. Whatever the reason, nipple piercings aren’t going out of style any time soon, so be sure to check out our large selection of nipple rings today.