Body modification is huge right now. Whether that’s supermodels getting tiny dainty tattoos stamped all over their bodies or actresses turning the 2010s arm party trend into a party on their ears instead, needles are no longer taboo. With millennials — especially women — challenging the stigma of body modification and turning what used to be looked as trends for the, let’s say, less-than-savory crowd, into a serious art form, people are shying away from tattoos and piercings less and less. One person who knows that better than most people is Los Angeles-based piercer extraordinaire and founder of Body Electric Tattoo, Brian Keith Thompson. He exclusively chatted with Off The Shelf about his take on trendy ear piercings past and present.
Brian is a force to be reckoned with in the industry. With almost 100 thousand followers on Instagram and celebrity and influencer clients like Bella Thorne, Anine Bing, Desi Perkins, Jkissa, and many more, his shop has become a hotspot for Angelenos and tourists alike. Piercing lovers have flocked from all over to have their ears touched by BKT — as his clients lovingly call him — so that they can leave with beautifully curated pieces of art on their ears.
His work, though dainty, tiny, and feminine, is worth a pretty penny. His sessions are appointment-only and start at $200 (including jewelry), and most of the time, they end up being much more. But his clients hardly ever leave disappointed. They walk away from Body Electric with a newfound love for the appendages on the sides of their heads, and they’re customers for life.
Read on for Brian’s thoughts on what’s currently trending in ear piercing, what he thinks is coming up next, and where he hopes his industry will go.
What are some of the most common ear piercings that people have been requesting this year? Why do you think people like those particular piercings?
Well, that’s an easy one. The most popular piercings I’m doing is what I’m known for. The vertical, multiple-constellation-style ear piercings, delicate jewelry, really small diamonds, thin gold hoops — stuff like that. That’s what’s popular for me right now. [People are seeing my work on Instagram, so] they’re coming in[to the shop] and asking me to do what I do. They basically give me a “dealer’s choice” and let me have my way with their ear.
What are some of your favorite kinds of ear piercings to do and why?
I like to do delicate, small, balanced, asymmetrical, unique, and fun stuff. My clients will usually get three piercings with me. We can always do a lot with that. My forte and what I’m really into is just different [than other piercers]. [I like] placing studs or hoops in areas of the ear that most people wouldn’t do. I build off of what they [already] have. In most cases, I use existing holes that they have that they don’t like, and I put a different style of jewelry there. I transform the ear to making it something that they’re now completely into.
I have clients come in who are a little distraught that their ears aren’t balanced that well, and we’re able to build off of that and make it look like it was planned all along. Each client is going to have a different experience with me. It goes off of their attitude, their flexibility, and their willingness to try something different and push the envelope a little. I tell clients it’s up to their taste and budget [to determine] what we can do. If you’re trusting and want to do something really cool — and spend a little bit of money — we can make something really unique and fun. There’s so much to do on the ear. It’s kind of endless.
People definitely describe you as a trendsetter in the piercing industry right now. How does that make you feel?
I know what I like to do. I will constantly strive to get better at what I do, and also change up [my style] a little so it doesn’t get tired or boring. But at the end of the day, ear piercings are kind of timeless. Pirates were wearing gold hoops in their ears, and we’re still wearing them. It’s interesting because what I choose to do [with my piercings] is what’s getting popular now [in general]. It’s a pretty amazing and intimidating place to be [in my career].
[I have] to stay creative and on-target. If people hear about me, [that I’m] so great and [clients should trust me], but then they come in and [the experience is] lackluster or doesn’t meet their expectations, [I could] slowly fall from the top or fade from public view. [Clients will] to move on to someone else that’s got the dream and the desire to keep going. So that’s the only thing that really gets to me sometimes when I start overthinking.
[I keep thinking to myself,] “How can I keep reinventing myself over and over again? How do I stay fluid and dynamic in an industry like this?” The competition is fierce out there. It’s not like no one else is doing this; I’m not the only one. There’s thousands upon thousands of people [piercing] everyday, and they’re great at it. There are outstanding piercers all over the world. I’ve seen some great work from all corners of the earth. [With social media,] the moment you do your work, it can be seen within seconds globally, good or bad.
What are your predictions of other ear piercings that are maybe not so common right now, but you think will get huge before the end of the year?
Man, my crystal ball is still in the shop. I have no f’ing idea any more. I actually tried to get my money back on that thing. It doesn’t work any more. I spent a lot of money on that crystal ball. [laughs] With celebrities, influencers, bloggers, and viral posts, it’s so hard to call that right now. Tomorrow, a celebrity with 100 hundred million followers can decide to do something and change the course of history. [The field] really is so dynamic right now.
Do you have any advice for people looking to “style” their ears? What are some good piercings to start with?
That’s a tough question. It’s almost impossible to answer, because if I had ten people walk in today, I may do something similar on two of them, but not all ten of them. It really depends on the person: their style, their taste — all of that. It’s a very personal procedure. You really need to meet with a piercer that you trust.
So what I would say is, if someone is looking to start an ear project, I would find a piercer that you’re into. You like their pictures, you’ve read their mission statement, you like their philosophy, you like the studio (it’s clean and comfortable). If you trust that piercer, go off their recommendations. You don’t need to take every recommendation, but you can listen to them and you can pick what you like out of it. And you guys can work together to make something beautiful on your ears.