Getting my ears pierced in fourth grade was a really, really big deal. To begin with, I had to plead with my mother for weeks to make it happen, and even then, she said only said yes with a few stipulations: 1. I had to be vigilant about cleaning my ears. 2. My adventures in body jewelry ended there. No dangly baubles hanging from my belly button, no cartilage bands, no nostril studs. Septum piercings, obviously, were also on the banned list, but that was implied. Those were too counterculture and aggressive to even bother mentioning, something you’d only expect a chain-covered Marilyn Manson fan with a green mohawk to want. Getting one was an outright act of angry rebellion.
Not anymore. In the last few years, it’s become something you’re more likely to spot the look on a buzzy young It girl than a tatted-up goth. Divergent star Zöe Kravitz has one, as does fellow actress Scarlett Johansson. It’s a signature for British singer FKA Twigs; model Anja Konstantinova’s is on constant display. Lady Gaga, too, got one (on camera!) last year—and let’s not forget Lucky‘s own Laurel Pantin. Her delicate chain is so cool, she’s made every girl in the office want one as well.
That, of course, could be the very reason why smack-in-the-middle-of-the-nose piercings suddenly feel so cool: unlike the intimidatingly large septum rings of yore, the newer versions are subtle and feminine. Instead of the thick circle you’d see hanging from a bull’s snout, women are going for dainty, barely-there adornments ranging from tiny barbells (one flash of metallic peeking from each nostril) to soft, simple chains (the favorite by far being this lovely one from J. Colby Smith) to thread-thin rings (snugly fit just above the philtrum).
As with most trends, it’s nearly impossible to nail down the exact moment when septum jewelry reached that mainstream tipping point, but my guess would be around the Met Costume Institute’s punk-inspired show in 2013. Although the look had, actually, turned up on Givenchy’s Fall 2012 menswear show several months prior, the museum’s theme exposed it to a much bigger audience. Especially when Jessica Biel and Karen Elson test-drove the look at that year’s gala! Soon after, septum rings started turning up in fashion editorials (including Candice Swanepoel in Russian Vogue) and big brand advertisements (one is featured, FYI, on Free People’s homepage today).
Even still, I didn’t really, truly realize how ubiquitous it had become until I opened my inbox last week to find a picture of Rihanna, CFDA-approved priestess of all things high fashion, with an elaborate silver ring dangling between her nostrils. Impressed, as always, with her fearless approach to style, I began to read the accompanying press release and stopped in surprise. Turns our that the singer didn’t go under the needle after all; her bold new piercing is actually a cleverly concealed clip-in (you can actually pre-order the exact same one here). So don’t stress if you’re afraid of completely committing to this trend—you don’t have to. Rihanna said so.
Click through the slideshow above for some celebrity septum jewelry inspiration.