Professionalism and piercings
September 11, 2017 8:02 AM   Subscribe

How do I reconcile my desire to be a professional and my desire for ear piercings?

I am a 35 year old professional and I am also on the punk/edgy side of style naturally. I have long loved tattoos (I have 4) and piercings (I have had many over the course of my life, including nipples, nose, etc), but have always made them "concealable" for the sake of assimilation and "blending in", but it is something I no longer want to repress for [reasons]. (I can go into them if people want, but I don't think they really matter.) I'm also settling into an edgier, more punk personal style as well, and it all is making me feel really good and authentic and so much more comfortable with myself.

I over the summer, after lusting for one for decades, I finally got my industrial piercing and I love it so hard I can barely breathe. I also got a second lobe piercing on both ears (also decades overdue as far as I am concerned). I now am planning out what I want to do on my other ear (probably something like THIS, THIS, or THIS), as well as other "smaller" additions to both ears (tragus, some smaller helix studs, rook, etc).

My husband is fine with my getting whatever ear piercings I want, but he is slightly concerned that it may look unprofessional. My belief is that if I look well put together, perform well, and behave professionally, the piercings shouldn't negatively impact things.

My question is whether ear piercings (or piercings in general) are by default "unprofessional". Is there a way to have them that doesn't necessarily imply a lack of professionalism?

- My normal work attire involves makeup, heels, and what I consider to be stylish outfits (actual outfits I wear to work)
- I have zero interest in gauge/stretching, I only want piercings. Just a lot of them... :)
- I am sort of known for bold lipstick, mostly reds, but I have recently started playing with navy, black, and deep burgundy.
- I wear either a nose stud or a nose ring most days. No one cares.
- I have long-ish curly hair, and when I wear my hair down my ears are fully hidden. I also frequent wear "rosie" bandanas (another ear hiding style). Basically, if need be it is easy to hide the fact any piercings exist, though that isn't what I want to have to do...
- I work as an I.T. Consultant, so yes, there is a moderate amount of flexibility, and as for my industrial, people at work have been pretty indifferent to it. And frankly, if the dude down the hall can come to work in pyjama pants, surely I can't be dinged for a bit of hardware... right?

BONUS QUESTION: What about lip piercings? Are they intrinsically unprofessional?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Work & Money (36 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you work in an environment where you can get away with blue or black lipstick I really don't think piercings in your ears are an issue.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:08 AM on September 11, 2017 [46 favorites]

I think this largely depends on the city you are in. I live in Austin, so tattoos and piercings are fairly normal and acceptable in the professional sphere. I don't imagine other cities have the same vibe.
posted by monologish at 8:10 AM on September 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

You need to specify more about the environment where you work (and the country/city!). Of the three outfits you posted, two would not even be work-appropriate without piercings in my personal milieu, so it's tricky to judge the appropriateness of the piercings without more information. It's very context-dependent.

I do think that in an office environment wearing extensive piercings or visible tattoos is going to invite people to make certain judgments about you, even if your supervisor doesn't ding you for being "work-inappropriate." Whether or not you care about that is up to you.
posted by praemunire at 8:10 AM on September 11, 2017 [10 favorites]

I think it depends on the field. I know, for instance, that some banks disallow any tattoos or piercings to show at all. I would suspect that the IT field would be more lenient unless you're in the very top layers of administration.
posted by summerstorm at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2017

This is going to vary a lot by work environment and where you live. In some workplaces, it would hurt you and could even affect whether you get hired. In others, no one will bat an eye. There is no default "unprofessional" that's applicable to all situations.

If it means a lot to you, there's nothing wrong with deciding it's a risk you're willing to take.
posted by FencingGal at 8:17 AM on September 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

This is so context and place specific that it's impossible to answer. I teach on a college campus in a social science. As long as I show up wearing clothes (and I dress up when I need to meet with the powers that be), my head is happy; my forearm ink and undercut don't even raise eyebrows. In my STEM-adjacent phd program (on the same campus, one floor down from the department I teach in), the ink and haircut do occasionally raise eyebrows, but no one says anything (that I'm in a human-based subfield helps). I could not work in admissions looking like this, even though many of our students do and I've had more than one report that it's really helped them to see that you can be professional and have ink, a non-standard haircut, etc.

As long as your present place of work is happy (and it sounds like they are), it doesn't matter. There are other places of work that will be closed to you because of your dress/piercings, and as long as you're okay with that, then it doesn't matter. The conversation here isn't, are my piercings unprofessional (since that's so context specific), it's, am I okay with having the occasion door closed to me because of my appearance? In my case, I am; I will have a plenitude of opportunities even with the ink etc. (and if I end up working somewhere more conservative, my hair is easily fixed and long sleeves easily worn, and I'm willing to make that choice for the right opportunity).
posted by joycehealy at 8:18 AM on September 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

From someone who used to be heavily pierced (not that you think I'm anti-piercing):
Lip piercings are definitely less professional than ears and might hinder your ability to grow in your career, depending on the environment. For ears, I would just avoid jewelry that's too flashy / tacky, and make sure all your jewelry coordinates - there are some companies making high-end, classy body jewelry these days, like BVLA. For example, I think your piercing example #2 (the jeweled barbell) is less classy than #1.
posted by beyond_pink at 8:20 AM on September 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

Based on what you say here and the pictures of your (quite lovely!) work outfits, I would not even think twice about any ear piercings, esp if you're not getting them stretched. A lip piercing, on the other hand, might be a little more off-putting for some people, so if that's your concern, maybe don't do that.
posted by lyssabee at 8:20 AM on September 11, 2017

I like the last outfit. I also love piercings, I have 10 ear piercings in total and sadly, it is something to be conscious of. Unless you're a hairstylist, musician, artist or work in a tattoo parlor, it's going to an issue. Now, how big of an issue depends on the specific dress code and how lax your company and position may or may not be. I get around this by being verrrry conscientious about having my hair down at all times and do not put my hair up and make sure not to accidentally tuck my hair behind my ears without realizing.

If you can get a lip piercing during a time when you are on vacation long enough that it will heal and you will then be able to switch it to a clear "holder" or whatever the proper term is, or out altogether, that may be on option. But I'm not sure how long it takes for those to heal. Also, if you switch it out before it completely heals, it will be a pain for quite some time. Might have to schedule it really well, but it may be doable as long as you don't actually wear lip piercing jewelry actually *at* work.

A word of caution, even if no one has outright told you, it can be incredibly embarrassing when someone does mention to you if something is inappropriate. Just because you can "get away" with something, or no one has said anything yet, doesn't mean it's not noticed. I learned this the hard way and I don't think some of those "offenses" were particularly egregious. However, different minds. Another point, it also depends on the generational difference in the workplace. Some people just have a different idea of what professional is or isn't and it reminds me of those videos in the 90s about workplace professionalism.
posted by lunastellasol at 8:26 AM on September 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

*also, I am not a piercer or know professionally the best way to go about this. Just speaking of my personal experience with my nose piercing.
posted by lunastellasol at 8:28 AM on September 11, 2017

I have worked in professional environments with people with lots of piercings; it depends what kind of "professional," but based on your outfits I think you're fine for pretty much anything you do to your ears that doesn't involve stretching.

I've worked with people who had small eyebrow and nose rings in professional environments. Never a lip ring, though; I think that might be one you'd put off.

I will add that if you decide to work at, say, a fancy law firm or something, they might have different opinions.
posted by gideonfrog at 8:29 AM on September 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

lunastellasol : Really good point on the unmentioned "offenses". I feel fairly confident that hasn't happened, but it is definitely something I need to be aware of.

Answering some questions:
- I work in Atlantic Canada, in a private I.T. consultancy firm. There's a beer fridge in the kitchen, there are stand up work stations, there are company-wide (good natured) trash talking emails sent (with our VP taking part), etc. My company works to foster a progressive, youthful, "hip" image and have recently done a bunch of work to make sure our company brand presents as such.

- We work remotely (not on client site) and all my client dealings are done via phone. On the odd time when I do have to work in person with clients I would be willing to put in clear retainers, wear my hair down, or just down play things as necessary.

- In general, people's work attire here is all over the place. The expectation is that if you're meeting with a client you need to "dress up" but otherwise they don't particularly care. Some people wear more formal office attire every day, but nothing resembling a suit jacket or tie for ANYONE. The majority of people here work wearing jeans and t-shirts/clean but casual shirts, including some of the higher ups from time to time. In the summer, people wear shorts, strapless sundresses, flip flops, etc.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:34 AM on September 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree that lip piercings are harder to get away with than ear piercings. Lip piercings get (mis)read as, like, hypersexual or lascivious by some people. I don't think I've encountered anyone in mainstream secular America who sees ear piercings the same way.

I also agree that it will depend on your city, to a degree that might startle you. I'm a professional woman with visible tattoos, and I recently moved from Austin where they're everywhere to Boston where they're surprisingly rare — despite both places being young, progressive, tech-heavy, queer-friendly college cities. It sounds like you don't mind standing out as long as you're not judged too harshly for it. But in terms of the judgment you might attract, being that-one-woman-with-facial-piercings in a city where any reasonably-sized company probably has a woman with facial piercings is different from being the-only-professional-woman-with-that-piercing-that-anyone's-ever-seen, you know?

But like, the thing is, piercings are removable. I know it wouldn't be awesome to go to the work of healing up a complicated cartilage piercing and then have to take it out later because you've changed companies or industries or moved to a more conservative city. But you could do it if you had to, and even if the holes don't close completely or heal over perfectly, people who don't know what they're looking for are unlikely to notice them if they're not gauged up. If your current company doesn't mind and you feel safe and confident with more piercings, get more piercings.

I guess maybe one more thing to consider is that, to me, an extensive ear project on a professionally-dressed woman reads as "oh hey I wonder if she might be some flavor of not-totally-straight," kind of like an undercut does. I'm queer myself, and I don't know if you'd ping straight people's gaydar with a look like that. It's also not like gay women have a monopoly on piercings, so even if you're totally straight, I'm not saying "ugh that's appropriative" or whatever. But if you are straight (or if you're closeted and need to stay that way), you may find yourself joining the ranks of women-who-sometimes-have-to-say-"hahaha-nope-sorry-I'm-straight-but-I-get-that-a-lot," so if that would be upsetting or difficult for you that might be something to keep in mind.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:38 AM on September 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

In your field, as you have described it above, I think you should dress up in the interview and, while it'll be OK if you have piercings, you would need to switch them out for the most minimal presentation, so a hider plug (either clear or skin-tone) if you have a stretched lobe, or clear/skintone/thin, pale gold/very small additional earrings.

Once you get there, or when you're not in a client meeting, adjust your jewelry accordingly. I think these days, they mainly want to know if you can read the room and adjust your presentation appropriately.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:39 AM on September 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

My two cents: lip piercings aren't professional looking, ear piercings are fine as long as they're healthy* and the jewelry is "classy" as mentioned above. Of the potential ear piercings you linked, I think the first one is least likely to give anyone pause.

Caveats: I'm in the Pacific Northwest (super casual) and I work in a law firm (least casual of industries probably). But at least half my friends work in tech in some capacity.

*I've seen so many ear piercings that are irritated and/or infected and no one wants to look at that, I'm sorry to say.
posted by purple_bird at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

Thinking a bit more, one way to approach this would be to think about ways of countering negative stereotypes that people read onto facial piercings, and think about whether you'd be okay with needing to use those "countermeasures" on a daily basis.

So like: matching jewelry is a way of saying "I'm not just oblivious." Otherwise-modest clothing is a way of saying "I'm not out here to freak you out" — I'd read a short black skirt and facial jewelry as a much more aggressive statement than a full-length dress and facial jewelry, even at a company where the short black skirt alone was a normal look. There are hairstyles and clothes and kinds of glasses (if you wear glasses) that say "Yeah, actually I'm pretty brainy" and would counter any sort of stoner/burnout stereotype some people might be carrying. Nicely done hair counters the dirty hippie stereotype. Etc etc etc.

I'm not saying you'd need to do all those things, or even necessarily do any of them. But if there are particular stereotypes that you're especially worried about triggering, having a few specific countermeasures in your pocket that you know you'd be comfortable using might make you feel more confident about the whole thing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:48 AM on September 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

In an environment where you can wear the outfits you've linked, I really don't think ear piercings are going to be an issue unless you happen to work for/with someone who has a personal issue. Which is unpredictable and unavoidable and you may need to be willing to cover up / put in a clear retainer once in a while to work with that specific person if it becomes a problem, but I don't think it should dictate your whole life.

FWIW, in my workplace (academia, business casual-ish), no one's said a word about my tragus or cartilage piercings or my one visible wrist tattoo. I wear fairly simple jewelry so maybe that's a factor, but I feel like I could probably load up pretty heavily on additional ear metal before anyone would start to look at me sideways. (I do also think they're somewhat queer-signalling, but personally I take that as a bonus.)

Lip piercings, you probably are going to have more of an issue with. But it really is so context-dependent, I wonder if there's someone you work with that you would feel comfortable chatting with about this?
posted by Stacey at 8:58 AM on September 11, 2017

Quality of jewelry also matters a ton in what you can get away with, although I personally wouldn't find a lip or eyebrow piercing acceptable in any sort of corporate office. I did work with one lady in a major investment bank who probably had 5 holes per ear, but for work, she always wore tiny diamond or gold studs, or tiny gold hoops with a full suit every day.

The lady I worked with did feel that she had to dress more formally than the rest of us to offset the hardware, but honestly I don't think I noticed that her ears were multiply pierced for a long time; I just thought she liked dressing more formally. (many women have a double ear piercing, and with subtle hoops no one noticed that ones further up on the cartilage; I didn't notice until a "dress down day" when she showed up with her 'regular' ear hardware and was like WHOA is that new?! and turns out she'd had them for years)

So subtle every day jewelry will let you get a way with a lot.
posted by larthegreat at 9:06 AM on September 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have a lip piercing, and ear piercings (including small plugs), and tattoos. I can't really think of a time I've felt people held the piercings against me as being unprofessional. All my jewelry (save for my plugs) are just plain steel bars or rings. I work in academia but collaborating a lot with government agencies and industry. It helps that I'm from a school on the West Coast where people are pretty chill about these sorts of things, and I've noticed that colleagues from more conservative places (like the East Coast) seem to accept that it's OK where I'm based so don't make an issue. Sometimes I feel like expectations were lower, and then people have just moved on.

I've found the bigger thing for me, and I've had senior people in my industry stress this to me, that being "professional" is as much a feeling and attitude as a manner of dress. So as long as I feel confident and professional, I've tended to have people regard me as such.

So I would say more piercings would be fine. Lip rings are kind of tricky. I forget I have one. I've had it for 15 years. A lot of my colleagues don't really notice and seem surprised when I mention it. Some totally notice it, but I think they seem more into judging appearances in general. It probably helps that I'm in my mid-30s and definitely have a typical punk goes professional through Mod aesthetic going on. I also dress pretty masculine, which is to say I'm fairly traditional and conservative in my professional clothing except not really because of the whole gender norm thing. But again, nobody seems to care when it matters.
posted by kendrak at 9:09 AM on September 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

nebulawindphone : Otherwise-modest clothing is a way of saying "I'm not out here to freak you out"

I think that's the answer. I think a good starter plan is to keep my look otherwise "normal" (especially from the neck up). Nix the the edgier lipsticks at work (ie. navy, black, neons), and make sure my ear hardware matches, is more classy, and subtle so that the ear piercings get sort of smoothed over and normalized. That is a pretty small compromise, but is a compromise I am definitely willing to make in order to be able to wear the multiple ear piercings my heart longs for.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:14 AM on September 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yet another person agreeing that ear piercings are unlikely to be a problem in the kind of environment you've described - and personally I would not want to work in the kind of environment where such things are an issue.

The only thing I would add to what everyone else is saying is that some ear piercings seem to be easier to overlook than others, so I suppose you could consider that if you're really concerned. One of the ear piercings I've had for about a decade is a 14-gauge daith, and on multiple occasions people who've known me for years will suddenly do a double-take and ask when I got THAT piercing (despite having known me for years, and despite the fact that my hair is short enough that it wasn't concealed). Maybe that conch-daith industrial you linked would be similarly stealthy-ish?
posted by DingoMutt at 9:15 AM on September 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have five piercings in each ear (lobe piercings that go up about 1/2 way), an eyebrow piercing and tattoos on both upper arms and both lower shins.

I also work at a law firm.

All my external decoration is easily disguised - simple stud earrings, a hairstyle and glasses that block my eyebrow from view, short sleeves and tights or pants. Even my hair - if I part it on one side, it's light brown, chin length on one side and fashionably but tastefully short on the other. If I part it on the other side, it's green and blue on one side and shaved on the other.

I would love love love love to get a nose piercing, but that's just a line that I can't cross while working here.
posted by Lucinda at 9:22 AM on September 11, 2017

i am a data analyst but i work in a more staid field. i have several facial piercings including a stretched septum piercing. i work from home mostly. have not had problems. ymmv.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 9:26 AM on September 11, 2017

The work environment you've described plus the outfits you showed us indicate to me that as long as you keep your ears healthy and the jewelry is low-key, you can do pretty much whatever you want with your ears. Lip piercing maybe not.

My personal context: I'm an attorney in the US with five piercings in one earlobe and two in the other. My girlfriend works in a public library and has a bunch of the more exciting ear piercings, the names of which I am not cool enough to know or I would list them, and a nose stud. I have more trouble over dressing butch than I do over my ear piercings.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:02 AM on September 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

And frankly, if the dude down the hall can come to work in pyjama pants, surely I can't be dinged for a bit of hardware... right?

Yeah, God no. You're okay.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:17 AM on September 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

I work in a studio environment, with only occasional dealing with customers. I wear jeans and a tshirt to work.

And I took out my lip ring, as it made me feel unprofessional.

there IS something intrinsically unprofessional about a lip ring somehow! and I wear a silver ring in my nose and have a tattoo on my finger, so it's not like my professional standards are high!
posted by euphoria066 at 10:35 AM on September 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Consensus is definitely no lip piercing, and I will heed that. I shall focus on my ears. :)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:44 AM on September 11, 2017

I'm almost 10 years older than you, but of a similar physical type & stylistic bent, so I'm offering the below in case a message from someone who might be an older you might be helpful.

I once had a supervisor with whom I was quite friendly ask me tentatively what I would say if she told me that I would advance further and more quickly in my career [at X company] if I wore different shoes (at the time, all Docs or Vogs). I told her I'd laugh, and she quickly dropped the subject, but it stuck in my head for now over 15 years. It was a trendy, young work environment and I wasn't the only punk-of-center employee, but what she was saying was that if I had upwardly mobile ambitions I should try to fit in better. I didn't, and I didn't. But it struck me as an important message.

Then, as now, I try to balance my weird with dressing for the job I want, and so far that's worked well to ensure that I 1) fit in reasonably whilst standing out to the level I feel comfortable (I prefer not to dress like everyone else), 2) am respected in a supervisory role over people who run the gamut from very straight-laced to having visible tattoos/piercings and dressing in edgy styles at work (as in, on the edge of work-appropriate). My tattoos are all easily covered for meetings, and almost entirely covered in my work clothing - this is a purposeful choice. Piercings aren't my thing, but my jewelry tastes run toward the goth/dark/creepy, and I occasionally skate on that edge (for example, earrings which look "normal" from a distance but are actually small silver-cast animal bones) when I'm not in any important or external-facing meetings. I dress mostly in black and choose styles which are remarkable in their cut or "look" but relying on the prevalence of black work-wear in general to "blend in" to an extent. Or I wear wild colors but in classic styles and scale back on make-up and jewelry.

I recognize that some of these risks are ones which I'm able to make because I have over 20 years' work experience, I'm in a role where I participate in setting the organizational tone, and I have no internal upward trajectory to worry about. But they're calculated risks, and ones which I'm very aware of on a day-to-day basis. I usually keep a feminine cardigan, business blazer, unremarkable flats, and simple small hoop earrings at my desk "just in case".

I hope this helps, and congratulations to you finding a way to be your most *you* in your workplace.
posted by pammeke at 11:08 AM on September 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

One note I meant to make but forgot to in my verbosity: as curvy women, it is an unfair fact I've encountered that we are under more scrutiny in our personal presentation that anyone else, especially men but including slim women. So a word of caution in thinking "but so-and-so does X so I shouldn't be judged for doing Y" - sadly in my experience this hasn't been how it works.
posted by pammeke at 11:09 AM on September 11, 2017 [8 favorites]

The other question I think you need to ask yourself is - are you trying to get on a promotion track? Does the level above you dress differently/pierce and tattoo differently than the guy down the row in pajama pants?

In my experience, even if tattoos, piercings and unique dress aren't a barrier to actual employment, they can be a barrier to promotions or advancement - especially if those advanced positions come with requisite networking, sales or marketing, or in-person client relations requirements. As I progressed to management, the expectation when I showed up to work was that I was appropriate to see a client with an hour's notice any given day. As such, I wear long sleeves so I can cover my tattoos if need be.
posted by notorious medium at 11:36 AM on September 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

In an environment where you can wear the outfits you've linked, I really don't think ear piercings are going to be an issue unless you happen to work for/with someone who has a personal issue. Which is unpredictable and unavoidable

if the dude down the hall can come to work in pyjama pants, surely I can't be dinged

I'm in a different demographic and industry and probably country than most of the commenters, so take this only for what it's worth to you.

I don't care much what's "professional" dress in any field. I don't recognize any checklist or rule book. My office dresses more casually than others in similar fields, and I dress a bit more casually than that. So I think you may be asking the wrong question.

With a nail in your ear you couldn't possibly work in this office, because I would be creeped out every time I saw you. I also couldn't employ you or your firm for anything. I react the same to random pierced people I see in the street. So, I just wouldn't be able to have you around.

But this has nothing to do with any "professional" style guide. I don't care if your entire firm wears pajamas. It would be fun to have you visit our office in your pajamas.

This is only one person's emotional reaction and I acknowledge that it's out of step with most of the other posters. Best of luck with everything.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:06 PM on September 11, 2017

I used to work for IBM, and one of our most senior and experienced consultants - meeting with clients every day - had a full on eighties British punk mohawk about eight inches high. It was often coloured.

This guy was a second or third line manager, and he now works for ernst and young I believe.

Yeah people talked about it, and some were scandalised I'm sure. But it was kind of part of his brand. He was super friendly and approachable, and wore suits (some very straight, some slightly edgy [toned down checks for instance]) to work. Didn't hurt him at all.

Obviously, he was a guy and we all know different rules apply, but thought you might like the data point. If a partner consultant can have a mohawk, I think you should be fine with a few piercings.
posted by smoke at 2:04 PM on September 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

I only skimmed most of the comments, so apologies if this was said already and I missed it - I agree that based on what you've told us and your work attire, most ear piercings are probably going to be fine, especially if you keep the actual jewelry conservative or not super attention-getting. But I would be careful about timing. As a manager in a creative field, I wouldn't blink an eye at multiple piercings of the sort you linked to, but I would probably raise an eyebrow if someone who worked for me started getting a new piercing (or tattoo) or two every two weeks. It stops seeming like a fashion choice and starts raising questions of whether this is a play for attention or someone with issues with impulse control. Just like with any fashion choice in business, if people are noticing your choices rather than the work you're doing - or their reaction to your choices (real or perceived on your part) interferes with the work you're doing - it's a problem. Otherwise you're fine.
posted by Mchelly at 2:30 PM on September 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Professional is how you attend to your work, your clients and your colleagues... not how you look. I say push the edge and demand respect.
posted by fritillary at 8:04 PM on September 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I agree with the consensus here, and just thought I'd add: your company sounds extremely similar to mine, with the environment and the phone consulting (though I imagine we're smaller). My head developer has an industrial. My head designer has an afro. I have a daith in each ear and gray-streaked hair that I sometimes overdye red (am girl). All of us go on site with clients a few times a year. We dress up a bit, so more classic business casual than our usual regular casual, and no one bats an eye. I think simple jewelry (devguy and I both have plain silver barbells) and toning down the rest of your look a step, at least until your piercings become the new normal, would work out just fine.

(But, yes, skip the lip. I'm biased because as an ex-brass player they weird me out. But my brother has one along with an earlobe, an eyebrow ring, and full forearm sleeves, and the lip is the one people notice in anything less than positive ways. He doesn't get crap for it, but it's the one people seem to stare at or are internally bothered by.)
posted by dust.wind.dude at 9:48 AM on September 12, 2017

I don't think you will have an issue with looking professionally in line with your peers unless you have an impulse to play with the piercings all the time. IT doesn't seem to happen much with ear piercings, but sooo many people with lip piercings mindlessly tongue it and flip it in and out of their mouth and that does look unprofessional.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2017

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