Gen Z Wants Belly Button Rings to Be a Thing Again
Are we just going to let history repeat itself like this?
"It was circa Britney 'Hit Me Baby One More Time'; I had learned the dance, I had the full school girl costume and I needed the body jewelry to match," millennial Los Angeles-based DJ and host Amrit shares as she reflects on when she got her belly pierced. Amrit's piercing has since closed up but, like many young people, she plans on re-piercing it with a friend in the lead up to what's been dubbed "hot vaxx summer."
Belly rings were popularized in the early '00s by artists like Britney Spears, only to be deemed tacky and distasteful by popular culture a few years later. But with Gen Z spearheading the return of low-rise jeans (while cancelling skinny jeans), exposed thongs, and other Y2K staples, the navel piercing's return seems almost inevitable, considering the younger generation's obsession with nostalgia. In fact, the hashtag "Y2K" on TikTok has over one billion views, with "belly ring" racking up nearly 50 million.
Cassi Lopez-March, founder of So Gold Studios in Brooklyn, says she has pierced more navels in the past few months than in years, in what she calls a "huge boom" in demand. This, she says, is in large part to celebrities like Billie Eilish and Normani having one. Still, she encourages those interested in the piercing not to be trend-focused.
"I don't think anyone should keep those things in mind when getting pierced," she tells InStyle. Another factor to consider is if a belly ring will work for your body. "Navel [piercings] are extremely anatomy dependent. It's not about the size of the person, but the shape of the navel itself." Lopez-March adds it's best to visit a reputable piercer for an assessment before getting any new holes poked in your body.
While the piercing is once again in fashion, re-piercers like Amrit aren't concerned that it will go out of style for a second time. "I can make anything look chic and expensive," she says. "Fashion is cyclical, so it doesn't surprise me. Like everything, it's about how it's put together."
For Becca Haeger, founder of That Looks, the reemergence of the trend is refreshing because she's "stuck with" hers. "I got my bellybutton pierced when I was 17, because my parents wouldn't let me get a second ear piercing — they didn't want my grandma to see it — so I got my belly button done instead and regretted it immediately," she says. "I still have a huge hole that I don't think will ever close up."
However, despite the navel piercing becoming synonymous with a post-vaccinated summer, the internet is still somewhat divided. While one TikTok user quotes her video as "a sign to get your belly pierced so it can heal in time for summer," others warn against infection or stretching during pregnancy, which are the same arguments people made back in the 2000s. For 17-year-old Ella [whose last name is being withheld for her her privacy], this is not a deterrent but just "another reason to not have kids."
"It makes me way more confident in myself and my body so I'm honestly not concerned for the future," she told InStyle. Ella is still yet to tell her parents about her new piercing.
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Ella is just one of the many Gen Z kids that view belly rings as a teenage rite of passage. But elsewhere on the internet, it has become just another trend for generations to argue about: Earlier this year, a millennial on Twitter asked, "Wait did everyone stop wearing their belly button rings and not tell me?"
"I saw a TikTok that said I'm too old for a belly ring," another person tweeted, age 23.
On TikTok, a millennial user recently posed the question to the younger generation: "Are belly button rings out?" People of all ages rushed to the comments to assure her the piercing is timeless. "I have it and I'm Gen X," wrote one user. "It's a classic rebellion thing," wrote another.
For 24-year-old Gina Lin, sitting on the cusp of both generations, it's simply a confidence booster. "It's liberating to me," she says. "Why not show off your belly? My belly would be so boring without it." Gina chooses to wear a plain ring rather than the extravagant charms from the 00's that inspired her to get hers. "I've never thought it was tacky having a belly button piercing because I think it's really just based on the charm," she adds. "If you're considering doing it, do it. But know that there's a possibility that the hole won't fully close if you decide you don't want it anymore."
With the low-rise trend exposing our bellies in a way that hasn't been seen since the Britney era, decorating it for confidence or even just aesthetics is an extremely valid way to celebrate getting vaccinated.
If you end up deciding to get the piercing, whatever your reasoning, speaking to a qualified piercer is the way to go if you're engaging in the trend this summer. And if you decide to take the plunge, posting the process on TikTok is a popular, but completely optional, next step.
But no matter how you feel about belly rings, or any other 2000s beauty trend for that matter, just know that Gen Z is on a mission to bring Y2K back, whether we like it or not.