Lip piercing acceptable for a professional internship?
March 23, 2005 4:19 PM   Subscribe

I currently have my lip pierced in the middle, with a ring. I'm going to be doing a legal internship with a barrister in London this summer for four weeks. I don't want to lose the piercing, just yet. (The Man can own me in a year or two when I graduate law school). [more in the extended]

Would it be acceptable for me to just exchange the ring for a bar through the lip with studs at either end? If not, does anyone know anything about getting a "retainer" or something I could exchange the ring for during working hours.

Appreciate the advice in advance!
posted by whatitis to Work & Money (18 answers total)
I would think that unless you are working in a non-typical legal environment (maybe for some kind of alternative advocacy group), most law offices are going to be negative on any sort of non-traditional piercing. This is definately true in the US... maybe the UK is different though.
posted by reverendX at 5:02 PM on March 23, 2005

Unless the piercing is very fresh, you can change out the captive-bead ring for a barbell (the conventional advice is not to change the jewelry in a fresh piercing until it's completely healed). You probably want to check into jewelry made specifically for oral piercings, much of which has a flat disk on one end in lieu of a ball. Retainers are also readily available. If you're buying one online, you'll have to know, at minimum, the gauge of the piercing, but I'd strongly recommend going to a local shop.

Much more information is available at BME, in this old AskMe thread or at your local piercer's (no location info in your profile, so that link is to a trade association).
posted by box at 5:06 PM on March 23, 2005

There are definitely retainers, but they're still going to have a clear piece of plastic which will show [image]. You might be able to obscure this with facial hair, but in the US, long facial hair is about as taboo as lip piercings in many law offices.
posted by jessamyn at 5:10 PM on March 23, 2005

They make spacers/retainers. I know because I had to supervise college students working in the schools, and they had to use those. That was Indiana, not London, but I would expect that, although London is a place that is often very accepting, a law firm would be much more conservative.
posted by abbyladybug at 5:20 PM on March 23, 2005

so what i'm hearing is - take it out and lose it over a four week internship, or have a retainer and even then it might not be acceptable?
posted by whatitis at 5:25 PM on March 23, 2005

I don't know what kind of appearance guidelines are expected of someone doing an internship with a London lawyer (barrister, solicitor, to-may-to, to-mah-to), but I gather that you're guessing that visible jewelry would not be acceptable. Retainers are less visible, but visible nonetheless. And it certainly seems like the internship is more important to you than the piercing is.

Even if it closes up entirely (over four weeks, it's possible that it won't, and you'll just need to have the hole enlarged with a taper when you want to wear jewelry again), you could always get it re-pierced.
posted by box at 5:36 PM on March 23, 2005

Echoing what the others have said. Retainers are still noticable, and especially around the mouth area, the most mobile part of your face, it'll probably draw attention, even if people are too polite to comment.

Good/bad thing is that oral piercings are pretty quick to heal, so if it's a recent piercing, don't bet on it staying open for 4 weeks. If you go with the retainer, it'll probably be too much bother to take it out every day, so I'd just leave it in for the whole 4 weeks, if your boss approves of it.

Just a thought: If there's a bit of clear plastic that'll show with a retainer, could you paint it (with waterproof eyeliner or nail polish) so it'd look like a mole/beauty mark?
posted by lychee at 5:37 PM on March 23, 2005

Leave it in. Push the envelope. If they don't like it, fuck 'em. There's always another job.
posted by majcher at 6:13 PM on March 23, 2005

If they don't like it, fuck 'em. There's always another job.

At the local McDons.
posted by edgeways at 6:23 PM on March 23, 2005

There's always another job.

There may or may not be another job. But there can always be another piercing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:24 PM on March 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

Is it impractical to take it out only during the workday?
posted by Tubes at 6:50 PM on March 23, 2005

When I had an eyebrow ring, I took it out at work and put it back in the rest of the time. If you're piercing is not likely to close up within a few hours, you could do the same thing.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:56 PM on March 23, 2005

the piercing is recent so taking it out during the work day is, unfortunately, not practical. i've also heard from friends that they close up quite quickly, even if you've had it for a long time.

i won't diverge on how this grates against my sense of dignity that looking "professional" requires alteration of my sovereign self, but i chose this career, so it looks like i'll go with a retainer and see what happens.

i don't want to have to get it repierced again and go through two months of aftercare.

that's for the help mefi, a successful reality check with my first post.
posted by whatitis at 7:12 PM on March 23, 2005

I don't know how well this would work for a lip piercing, but when I suddenly got a job six weeks after getting my nose pierced while unemployed, I used a short length of fishing line, melted just a little on one end with a lighter to form a sort of pin head to keep it from disappearing into my nose. You could melt a much larger "stopper" to go on the inside of your lip to keep it from popping out the front.

If it's a pretty hefty-gauge piercing, you might not find fishing line as large as that, but you could at least use heavy line and keep it from closing up entirely.

It worked really well for me. At very close range it might have looked as if I had an odd blemish or tiny wart, but I'm not sure you could have guessed what it was unless you knew about the trick yourself.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:15 PM on March 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

Whipper-snipper (weed whacker, nylon line trimmer) line is easy to buy, available in a wide range of interesting colors, and way thicker than fishing line.
posted by flabdablet at 4:22 AM on March 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

i won't diverge on how this grates against my sense of dignity that looking "professional" requires alteration of my sovereign self, but i chose this career, so it looks like i'll go with a retainer and see what happens.

You know, you could always ask the boss for advice. As long as there's no direct contact with clients, he/she might not really care what you look like.

As for this "looking professional" thing, yeah, like it or not, but there are certain conventions that need to be followed in every profession. In the legal business, this may mean wearing a suit and a tie and keeping your face clean from junk. The exact opposite may be called for in other professions. You can look adherence to the conventions as a matter of respect that you pay your colleagues. It also indicates that you know the in's and out's (do's and dont's) of your profession.

But then again, as an intern, you're still not an accomplished professional, so it might not matter so much what you look like, as long as your apparent lack of professionalism won't reflect badly on the company.
posted by sour cream at 6:50 AM on March 24, 2005

One point of disagreement with what sour cream said above. it does matter what you do as an intern. While I do into know the English system, if it is similar to the U.S., then the summer positions are effectively extended interviews. And your prospective future employer will be judging you on everything, including what may look like a refusal to wear the team uniform. It may not be the deciding factor, but it is safe to say that it will be a negative factor in any hiring decision. Again, I do not know the English system well, but in the U.S., law firms are, almost without fail, very conservative in their dress.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to hide a piercing on your face. We are all fairly hard-wired into paying clsoe attention to the faces of those around us. I can't believe that a melted piece of weed-wacker nylon under you lip is going to look like anything but a melted piece of weed-wacker nylon.
posted by rtimmel at 8:07 AM on March 24, 2005

I'd ask either the barrister or someone who has worked for him or her before if a lip piercing would be okay. I've worked in law offices with a nose ring, and have a nose-piercing friendly summer internship (I'm a law student in the US). But, of course, a nose ring is pretty common and un-weird these days, whereas a lip piercing is less common and more weird so that might not fly. But it couldn't hurt to ask.

If legal jobs are as competitive in London as they are here, I'd be very careful with majcher's advice. There may not, actually, be another job, or not one that you like as much as this one. Depending on how close you are to graduation, this internship might lead to a full-time job offer so it's better, IMO, to treat it as a serious job than a one-off summer thing. At the very least, this barrister can serve as a connection or writer of stellar letters of recommendation. So as much as it pains me to say it, I'd take out the piercing to keep everyone happy. Maybe you could get your tongue pierced -- that's easier to hide.

Finally, if you do go with the weed-eater line retainer idea, you might be able to disguise it with some nail polish that matches your skin tone. The only job I've had where the nose ring was a no-no was a server job so I used a plastic retainer and some light pink nail polish to keep the piercing open and nobody ever noticed it.
posted by jennyb at 9:05 AM on March 24, 2005

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