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The Curated Ear

The Curated Ear

A new piercing term has seen a rise in popularity on social media recently: the “curated ear.” This is a new way to describe a particular approach to ear piercings. Instead of simply adding a new piercing to your ear, the “curated ear” entails having a one-on-one conversation with a piercer where he or she makes suggestions for not only a new piercing (or piercings), but for jewelry for existing piercings that will work with the anatomy of the ear to create a unified and aesthetically pleasing look. Instead of concentrating on one piercing at a time, it involves looking at the anatomy and layout of the entire ear.

This is not the first time we’ve seen social media make a piercing popular: in the Spring of 2012, issue #58 of The Point, the quarterly journal of the Association of Professional Piercers, reported on the spike in popularity of the triple forward helix piercing. (Full disclosure: I was the editor of The Point at the time.) The story reported on the fact that piercing studios all across the United States had clients coming in with the same photo pulled up on their phones, asking for the same set of piercings.

But this time it’s a little different. The curated ear involves more than an individual piercing or group of piercings, and entails planning out the entire ear.

The curated ear phenomenon is not entirely new, but the term really started to gain traction on social media through the middle to end of 2017. As of this writing, Instagram has 2880 posts under the tag #curatedear. Going through the posts’ history, New York piercer and jewelry designer Maria Tash has been one of the more prominent posters to have taken up the mantle of promoting the term and hashtag. She talked about the process in a recent article for Bustle:

Jewelry designer and piercer Maria Tash is a particularly large proponent of this method, which basically means you get a bunch of piercings all at once (or work with the piercings you already have), then pick jewelry that goes nicely together to fill all the holes. "The phrase itself first emerged in late 2015, early 2016," Tash tells me during a visit to her studio in NYC. "It describes styling of the ear with jewelry in a very deliberate and beautiful way. Something that resonates with the wearer's personal aesthetic." Often, this means all the jewelry comes from one shop — no more mixing and matching all those studs you've collected over the past decade.

Ears are incredibly diverse between one person and the next, so it’s already not uncommon for our piercers to make recommendations toward what piercing would work based on the anatomy of someone’s ear. With the “curated ear,” we’re trying to determine what would work for the entire ear—not just with new piercings, but what will complement or enhance existing piercings. It’s looking at the entire ear as a whole, and not just a collection of individual piercings and jewelry.

There are many different piercings that are possible in the ear, and many of those are dependent on anatomy, meaning that not every piercing works for every person. We already often have our piercers talk to clients about placement and jewelry sizes before walking them through jewelry selection, and piercers will often make recommendations for piercings based on clients' anatomy. We already try to head off any complications with particular piercing choices, with questions like, “Do you regularly wear ear buds? What ear do you use for your phone? What side of your head do you sleep on?” It’s also not uncommon for clients to come in asking us to tell them what piercings will work best in their ear—so in reality we’ve been “curating” ears for quite some time now! Many piercers would argue this is not a new service that we offer, but just a normal day at the studio.

While it’s true we have been doing this for years, the post that really made this term into more of a widespread trend among our clients has been a recent video from Buzzfeed on Facebook, posted on December 31 of last year, where two women film their visit to piercer Adrian Castillo in New York. You can see it below:

As piercers, there is always something to be critical of when watching other piercers. (In fact, criticizing other piercers’ videos is almost our national sport: Why doesn’t he roll up his sleeves? He keeps touching her hair with his gloves! Is he really expecting her to heal a conch piercing with an 18g ring? I would never do that….) But while it’s incredibly easy to criticize piercing videos, it’s refreshing to have a wave of newer clients coming in and saying, “I’m not sure what I want, but I want you to make my ear look good.” This is what we do best.

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Jennifer - December 9, 2020

Very interested in having this done! I dont know that I have room for more piercings but I would love to talk to someone about styling. I really like the jewelry you offer, I’m just not sure the best combinations to pick. Thanks!

Katrina Hicks - December 27, 2019


I saw your blog post about curated ears, and was wondering if this is a service you offer. I’m not necessarily looking to add any more piercings (I don’t really have room), but I’ve been searching for a while for a service where a professional could help me pick out jewelry for my existing piercings. I have 9 per ear. Is that something you’d be able to offer?


Allie Gaskin - June 12, 2019


I’m very interested in getting this done. I know that curated piercings can be very different according to the person and the ear, but I was wondering if there are any general pricing estimations or ranges for this typical service.

Thank you!

Kristina - September 28, 2018

Very interested in having this done. Any chance you have someone in the Chicagoland area?

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