For those of you who don’t know the history: Jim Ward, with backing from Doug Malloy, started Gauntlet back in 1975 in Los Angeles. At the time, it was the first body piercing studio not only in the U.S., but in the world. With Gauntlet, Jim went from a small, one-man jewelry manufacturer out of the back of a small retail space to a significant industry wholesaler. (My first jewelry and supplies were purchased from Gauntlet, in 1989.) Gauntlet’s retail operations expanded from one shop in Los Angeles to studios in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and a even a franchise in Paris. In 1977, with the input of Doug and Fakir Musafar, Jim started Piercing Fans International Quarterly (PFIQ), the first (and highly influential) publication dedicated to body piercing. Jim is also personally responsible for developing many of the tools, techniques, and jewelry designs that are still in use today.
Gauntlet was brought to a tragic end through duplicity and greed worthy of the best soap opera—all narrated in Jim Ward’s amazing memoir Running the Gauntlet. While we could go on about his life and contribution to body piercing, Jim is much better at telling the story himself. Jim’s book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how modern body piercing arrived at the place it currently occupies.
The piercing industry has evolved into a behemoth Jim could never have dreamed it would become. (Many of us would have never imagined it when we started out.) Jim continues to be involved in the industry, albeit more as a patronly grandfather figure, proudly holding court while all of his children (and now grandchildren) gather around him to hear stories about the early days. Jim is now retired, but still does occasional graphic design work, including currently overseeing The Point: The Journal of the Association of Professional Piercers. Jim will be at the upcoming APP Conference, where he will be not only selling his book, but also teaching the class The Gauntlet Legacy with industry veterans (and former Gauntlet employees) Elayne Angel and Paul King. For those of us attending the conference, Jim’s class is guaranteed to be a highlight.
Several years ago, it was decided that Jim Ward’s birthday would be celebrated as International Body Piercing Day—and it has ever since. All of us at Infinite would like to wish Jim Ward a happy (belated) Birthday! We all owe you so much.