NU students opt for decorative body art

Elizabeth Campbell

When Emily Browne came to Northwestern last year as a freshman, she knew what one of her first decisions as an adult would be — a nose piercing.

Browne, now a Weinberg sophomore, got her nose pierced barely two weeks into her freshman year.

“It was my ‘rebellious college act,'” Browne said, acknowledging that her father was less than thrilled with her decision.

Just a few weeks before she returned to NU this year, Browne upgraded her rebellion. She got a tattoo of a peace dove on her ankle.

Browne is among the NU students who have decided to get tattoos or piercings after leaving home for the first time.

But rebellion is not the only reason some students opted for decorative body art, such as tattoos or piercings. Communication sophomore Matt Tomko pierced his tongue over the summer to enhance his music career.

As a guitarist and singer working in Chicago, Tomko hopes audiences would remember his piercing as something different.

“When you are singing, your mouth is open a lot,” Tomko said. “It’s something that’s just a little bit different that (can) make me memorable.”

Music sophomore Rachael Bauman got her eyebrow pierced last January two weeks after Winter Break.

She also got an industrial bar, jewelry that connects two or more piercings, in her ear a few weeks ago.

According to Bauman, her piercings make people look at her differently.

“Walking down the street, no matter what, people are judging you,” Bauman said. “(Getting a piercing) is making a conscious choice to put yourself in one of their categories.”

Some students said they just always wanted a tattoo or a piercing and college turned out to be a good time to get them.

Weinberg and Music sophomore Ellen Cantrell got her nose pierced at home over the summer.

“It was probably just something I wanted to do for (myself)” Cantrell said. “I don’t think it was rebellion per se. I thought it would be a neat expression of my personality.”

Whatever the reason, college students looking to express themselves through piercings and tattoos often find themselves customers at tattoo and piercing parlors in Chicago.

Hank Bangcock of The Tattoo Factory, 4408 North Broadway in Chicago, estimates that a “solid third” of the clientele at The Tattoo Factory are students from nearby universities.

“We’ve had a lot of students from Northwestern showing up,” Bangkok said. “I enjoy them a lot because they (really) listen.

“The universities (in the area) are a vital part of what we do here.”

The business at The Tattoo Factory usually picks up in the fall, he said, and when Thanksgiving break is over.

Although many view college as a time for experimentation, Donald Misch, NU’s director of University Health Services, said there are some risks involved in getting a tattoo or a piercing.

“I’d look for the most reputable, well-established, cleanest, most professional place I could find,” Misch said.

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