Encyclopedia > Lip piercing

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Lip piercing

The practice of piercing one's lip with a stud (barbell) or ring. This practice has some historical precedent, but is known by most as an activity of the youth.

A decorative item is worn in the piercing: commonly a single-ball barbell, captive bead ring, spike or inert plug nowadays. Traditional labrets were often clay disks. The modern labret, with a steel ball or spike visible, is a piercing which particularly suits men with round faces and/or beards.

The labret piercing is relatively straightforward: the lip is held in a clamp while the needle and jewelry are pushed through. Oral piercings heal very quickly and resist infection, but stick to sensible Listerine and/or salt mouthwashes daily. An unstretched piercing closes up very quickly - in a matter of hours - so if you have a job interview, take it with you and pop it back in afterwards.

Anthropology

The labret was a traditional piercing among the American North-West Coast Indians, where it was related to status:

LABRETS: these leave indelible tooth wear and are thus easily recognized skeletally, indicating attributes of the living individual rather than the postmortem treatment of that individual. Many are broken in grave contexts, perhaps ritually. Appear after 3,500 BP at Pender Island (Vancouver) and Blue Jackets Creek (Haida Gwaii). Appears that while both men and women could wear labrets at this time, only a restricted number of males and females had access to labrets. After 3,500 BP, a divergence in labret wear in S and N coasts. In the N from 1.500 - 3,000 BP, more labrets worn by males. After 1,500 BP, labrets worn by females. In the S, between 2,000 - 3,500 BP, worn by males and females, but from 2,000 BP on, labrets generally disappear and are replaced by cranial deformation by free males and females of whatever class (e.g. elite or commoner). SO, for 4,000 years on the NWC, it was important to distinguish certain individuals in a very direct manner; either by cranial deformation or by labret wear. Gender and geographical region may also be identified by these methods. (From http://www.sfu.ca/~csmith/genstuff/academic/comps/ames with permission)

When a mask was being made to represent someone of high status, naturally enough, that mask had a labret.

Word Origin

The word is from the Latin labrum, lip. It is not French, and should be pronounced "la-bret" not "la-bray".



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