A growing spectacle among youth in America, lobe stretching or, gauging, is more popular than ever before. Unless, of course, you count ancient practices.
Most sources speculate about the exact start of ear stretching and who it should be attributed to. Organizations like the Association of Professional Piercers suggest that it is an ancient tribal practice.
In some cultures it is also used to enhance the beauty of an individual.
Author of Piercing Bible, Elayne Angel, reports that this practice goes back as far Ancient Austria. In 20th century excavations, mummified corpses appeared to have stretched lobes up to 11 millimeters in diameter.
In modernized America, the reasons are not all entirely different. Jenny Confransisco, a junior, has been stretching her ear lobes since sophomore year of high school.
“They were just a really different type of body modification, really tribal. I was one of the first in my school at the time and definitely one of the first girls. They were just different,” Confransisco said.
She now has her lobes stretched to a solid 00, which measures to 3/8ths of an inch and isn’t sure where she’ll stop.
“It is expensive—and I have a lot of really cute plugs and earrings [in my size] already,” Confransisco said.
Moriah Manahan, a senior, has been stretching her lobes for seven or eight years. Manahan first started the process when her mother had her second holes gauged.
“It wasn’t so popular when I started, but then I started to see it more at concerts and in pictures,” says Manahan. “I had a friend who could only get one of her ears to stretch.”
She says that at one point, her lobes were up to ½ inch holes. They shrank and she believes they heal a lot more easily than people are led to believe.
“I think I could get them smaller if I wanted. As of now, I’m stretched to 00. I just like the way they look,” Manahan said.
When asked if she’ll ever take them out, she marks that she’s never had issues with employers and that, “I can see myself with them even when I’m old.”
Castleton staff member, Samantha Green says she’s only had her 8 millimeter gauge, approximately 1/8th on an inch, in for under a year.
It started as a problem ear piercing in Green’s case.
“As a child, my mom would have me get my ears pierced for special occasions but they never healed right because of how often I played sports,” says Green, “eventually, they just wouldn’t and kind of in boredom, I discovered various things stayed better than an earring.”
She then decided, upon seeing a discount stretching kit at a mall, that she would stretch it just a little more.
Green says she likes the size she’s at and doesn’t plan on increasing it. “I’ve already invested money in my size and I like how small it is.”
Stretch kits range anywhere from $20.00 to $150.00 online and there a lot of options for style. There are also some possibilities for complication and the APP warns it’s not for everyone.
Guages aren’t technically the correct name for the body modification.
“Usually, I hear people refer to modification by the type of jewelry they wear— tunnel gauges, plugs, tapers, stuff like that. The gauge is simply the size,” Confransisco said.
There are only a few people on the Castleton Campus with gauges and although not all of them were available for comment, it seems clear that there are many and varying reasons for this eccentric and attention-grabbing fashion and that it will continue to increase as a trend for some and a lifestyle for others.