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How the Welsh have gone body piercing crazy A NATION OF STUDS!; WE SPOKE TO TREND-SETTERS AND ASKED... ` WHY?'.

Byline: NADINE LINGE

LIPS, belly buttons, noses, ears, unmentionables - it seems you're not properly dressed these days unless, like Britney Spears, your bits have been pierced.

And experts say the Welsh are bigger fans of the piercing craze than anywhere else in the UK. So why do we love our ear, nose, tongue and belly rings so much? Wales on Sunday sent NADINE LINGE to discover the sometimes saucy reasons why studs, bars and rings are such hot stuff...

PIERCING KING: Peter Georgiou

PETER Georgiou, 50, owns a body piercing shop in Newport, and has been piercing since 1997.

Peter currently supplies more than 200 stores in Britain and several in Cyprus with Welsh-made gold and titanium studs and bars.

``We were always piercing ears,'' said Peter. ``And then all of a sudden in the late 90s more and more people started asking if we did any other kind of piercing.

``I decided to go on a course to learn how to do it. Soon after that I went to a fetish exhibition in London's Olympia - and did 234 piercings in three days!''

He added: ``Piercing has become so popular because it's lost its seedy image. We've taken it from the backstreet and put in the high street. It's far more acceptable.

``People get body piercings as an adornment, a fashion accessory. If a pretty girl is wearing a cropped top and has a pierced navel, it's very sexy. And many people have other parts pierced as well - it's supposed to increase certain kinds of pleasure!''

And Peter says it's not just the Britney Spears generation who want their bits pierced.

``We get quite a few middle-aged people as well - the oldest person we've had was a 66-year-old woman who came to have her nipple pierced,'' he revealed.

But sometimes people get more than they bargain for.

``We had this guy from Holland come in,'' laughed Peter. ``He was absolutely huge - 6ft 6ins - and wanted his navel pierced.

``But when we did it, he just passed out. When he eventually came round, he was so disorientated he didn't know where he was or what he was doing!''

Peter said the trend is huge in Wales and he sees no end to it.

``Recently, a guy brought a pounds 200 diamond in and had me make a navel bar for his wife as a birthday present - personalised body jewellery is going to be the next big thing. Body piercing is an evolving business.''

PAUL MATTHEWS, HAIRDRESSER Newport hairdresser Paul Matthews, 36, has had both ears pierced for 15 years and his nipple pierced for five...

``I HAD my nipple pierced because some friends were having theirs done,'' said Paul. ``But it hurt - a lot. ``I actually wanted both nipples done but the first hurt so much, I couldn't face having the other one pierced. But I'd definitely say the benefits outweigh the pain!

``It's much more sensitive and sensations are heightened. Since the piercing it's loads more pleasurable when it's touched.'' And Paul finds his saucy piercing has other advantages. ``A lot of people tell me it's very attractive,'' said Paul. ``And it really helps me pull!''

MEL GEORGIOU, HAIRDRESSER

Peter's daughter Melitsa, 26, has a stud through her tongue...

``IT only hurt a little bit,'' she said. ``And it was fine afterwards.

``Most people don't notice it - its only when I've been talking to someone for a while they'll say , `oh my god you've got your tongue pierced!' ``I liked the idea of having it done and just thought `why not' ``And I reckon it looks really good - definitely something I'd do again.''

CARLY GIBBONS, HAIRDRESSER Carly Gibbons, 21, from Newport is a hairdresser with her navel pierced.

She also has a piercing in her tragus (the piece of cartilage on the inner side of the ear)...

``I HAD my piercings done because thought they looked good.

``I don't show off my belly button piercing that much, but it's something a bit different and nice to reveal sometimes.

``Lots of people have told me it's really pretty.

``I don't regret having it done for a minute.

``The one in my ear is more unusual and I get quite a lot of attention because of it.

``But it's good to be different.''

CAPTION(S):

NAVEL GAZING:; Pop's Britney caused a sensation with her belly piercing
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 18, 2002
Words:724
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