Chances are you’ve walked into a Best Buy or a cell phone store or some kind ‘hip’ store and a store staffer has walked up to you with giant holes in his ear lobes. You probably pretend not to notice at first — like its no big deal because you’re hip, too. But then you can’t help it because your eyes just wander right into those giant ear lobe holes. Then you get bold and try to focus on things that you can see right through those amazing flesh tunnels — like you just found a new galaxy peering into the Hubble Telescope. So while the store expert at Best Buy is explaining camera resolution, memory cards and warranties, you are checking prices on the shelves behind him — gazing through his ear holes. ‘What about THAT camera?’ … as you try not to point through the line of sight going through his ear holes. Well, those holes are ‘gauges.’
Stretching (often referred to as “gauging”, in the context of body piercing, is the deliberate expansion of a healed fistula (hole in the skin) for the purpose of wearing body piercing jewelry. Ear piercings are the most commonly stretched piercings, with nasal septum piercings, tongue piercings and lip piercings/lip plates following close behind. While all piercings can be stretched to some degree, cartilage piercings are usually more difficult to stretch and more likely to form hypertrophic scars if stretched quickly. Healing is very important in between stages of stretching.
Stretching is usually done in small increments to minimize the potential for damaging the healed fistula or creating scar tissue. In North America, most stretching methods go up by a single even-sized gauge at a time. In Europe and most of the rest of the world, jewelry is metric, but the increments between standard sizes are similar.
Now in addition to tattoos, skin color, height, weight and clothing; police can add gauging to descriptions for missing persons and criminal suspects.