IMAGE VIA SEB BROWN
WORDS BY JORDAN DRUMMOND
Are we ready for bejewelled bellies?
Late ’90s and early 2000s fashion trends are like that one, random hair that keeps growing back, no matter how many times you pluck it.
Y2K looks continue to rear their scrunchie-laden heads into the fashion mainstream – from strappy sandals, to double denim, chokers, butterfly clips, fanny packs and baguette bags, our love for this era’s fashion just won’t die. Even Lancome’s iconic Juicy Tube lip gloss has made a resurgence this year.
It was an era marked by many impractical trends, and some of my personal favourite recent revivals include miniature bags that can’t fit your house keys (cc: Jacquemus) and those exceptionally unflattering, tiny sunglasses that no one looks good in – they should be firmly reserved for Keanu Reeves in The Matrix.
Don’t get me started on slip dresses, either. If I see another one this season, I may scream. Spaghetti straps are not made for those of us that consider bras mandatory.
In many ways, late ’90s and early 2000s fashion was the stuff of nightmares, particularly if you weren’t skinny – the super low rise hip-huggers were not accomodating for most body types. It was undeniably a toxic time for young women, particularly so when it came to body image, considering the only models and actors we were exposed to were ultra-thin, and anyone with a different body type was made to feel undesirable.
When paired with the much-loved tube top, the low-rise hip-huggers left little to the imagination and as a result, belly buttons were catapulted into view during the noughties when music videos became a mecca for midriffs. If you weren’t spending your weekend mornings watching Rage on the ABC followed by Video Hits on Channel 10, can you really call yourself a ’90s kid?
The iconic queens of the time like Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears led the belly bling charge and left us all obsessed with getting some sort of diamante in our navels.
From my experience, only the ‘cool’ parents let their kids get their belly buttons pierced, resulting in those little charms becoming a badge of honour for those of us that defied our parents – a true signifier of teenage rebellion. It was all very sexy and badass until you got a hideous, out of control infection that you had to tell your parents about, and a grounding ensued.
Personally, I’ve never been the belly button ring type. I like to keep my piercings in daylight and stick to the very basic-bitch rule of one per ear. But oh boy, did I wish I was cool enough to pull one-off.
So why has this early noughties trend not seeped its way back into our fashion consciousness yet? Some designers have made valiant attempts, like Melbourne jeweller and owner of his namesake label, Seb Brown. Seb prematurely tried to make belly rings happen in 2014, but like Karen and fetch it didn’t initially take off.
“I did a shoot with a friend in I think it was in 2014. We did lots of belly button rings and big hoops, lots of charms with little pearls and it kind of just went nowhere,” he tells me.
“I was expecting belly button rings and those chains people used to wear around their waist (remember those!) would come back, cause everything else did… Nike Air Max, Mytiko pants, but the little chains and belly charms didn’t.”
Seb has a theory that the trend is just waiting to reappear, hiding below our layers of iso-friendly sweat sets, patiently waiting to resurface. “A lot of people either still have their belly button piercing from 1997 and have forgotten about it and left it in there, or they’ve re-pierced it. It’s like a dirty little secret.”
Knowing this, Seb is planning to capitalise on it and #freethebellybutton. “My friend and I are going to revisit it again and do a little silver charm as part of a collection. We’re going to bring them back,” he says. And he might be on to something.
We may not have been ready for a belly button piercing revival in 2014, but in 2019, there were the first rumblings of a bejewelled belly button resurgence; Billy Eilish revealed her belly button piercing in an Instagram Story post, prompting Refinery 29 to declare that ‘Billie Eilish Is Officially Bringing Back Belly-Button Piercings’.
That same year, Hayley Bieber was also spotted wearing one and former Fifth Harmony member Normani made her wildly popular solo debut with the single ‘Motivation’, in which there were many lingering close-ups on her dangly diamante belly button piercing.
And the trend only seems to be growing. Online retailer Etsy reported in March this year that searches for belly button jewellery had increased 20 per cent compared to the same time last year, and listed it as one of the key jewellery trends we can expect to see increase in popularity in 2020.
But it’s certainly not the dangly, bejewelled piercing we were so familiar with back in the day. Many Etsy sellers are creating much more sleek, minimalist and low fuss options, with plain gold belly rings and faux belly rings proving popular.
And look, if there’s a year that’s in need of a fun trend, it’s 2020, and novelty piercings are practically the definition of fun. So why not liberate those belly buttons and find yourself a diamante, encrusted barbell, stat.
If you’re looking for some belly bling inspiration, wind back the clock with these iconic hunnies