Many times you will hear piercings referred to as “horizontal” or “vertical”. While these terms may sound intuitive, it’s not always clear what they mean. The confusion becomes even bigger when you take jewelry into account.
Many jewelry pieces are made for only one style of piercing (vertical or horizontal) and they simply don’t look great in the other type. Even worse, certain jewelry types can’t be used for a style of piercing they are not made for.
In order to avoid confusion and to be able to tell a difference easily, it’s important to understand the difference between vertical and horizontal piercings.
Whether a piercing will be considered horizontal or vertical depends on its direction and position on the body. This is true for both the piercing hole (the direction of the needle) and jewelry worn in a specific piercing.
The two most common directions are horizontal and vertical. They are mostly intuitive and easy to understand:
- Horizontal piercings are done horizontally on the body part that is pierced. The needle goes from left to right. Same goes for jewelry: it is positioned from left to right. Examples: typical nipple piercings, septum piercing, Ampallang.
- Vertical piercings are done vertically on the body part that is pierced. The needle goes from top to bottom (up and down). Same goes for jewelry: it is positioned from up to down. Examples: typical navel piercing, vertical clitoral hood piercing, Apadravya.
Keep in mind that these directions are not the only ones possible. It’s possible, though rarer, to make a piercing under an angle. This type of diagonal piercings produce a unique look. They are mostly done on ears or navel. For example, diagonal Industrial Piercing may be taken as one of these, though keep in mind that it is, strictly speaking, two piercings in one. Each of the individual piercings that make an Industrial Piercing will typically be ordinary horizontal or vertical piercings, only done at an angle that when combined together, creates a diagonal look.
Another example of a diagonal piercing is eyebrow piercing. While it’s typically considered a horizontal piercing (unless it’s clearly vertical), it’s important to note that eyebrow piercings are often done at a slight angle.
Inside and Out
This divide into horizontal and vertical piercings may seem neat when it comes to piercings where both holes are outside the body. But what about those where only one of the holes is visible on the outside?
For example, many lip piercings, nose piercings and other facial piercings are of this kind. One side of the hole (and jewelry) lies outside of the body while the other one is on the inside. In the case of lip piercings, one hole is on the outside of the lip while the other one is inside the mouth. In the case of a nostril piercing, one hole is outside on the nostril while the one is on the inside.
This sort of placement is characteristic for these types of piercings. So, are these considered vertical or horizontal? There is no universal way to answer this question, especially since it’s often not mentioned how directions are called in the case of these piercings. However, conventional wisdom and piercing practice often treat this piercing types as horizontal piercings.
Yes, they go from inside to the outside rather than left-right, but they can be considered horizontal when it comes to practical aspects. Most importantly, they are defined as “non-vertical”. This is important, because most of these lip and nose piercings have their vertical variant, which is a special type of piercing. With a vertical variant, the hole goes from top to bottom and both ends of the piercing (and both decorative balls) are seen outside of the body.
For example, a typical labret piercing will have the ball outside of the lip but the other end of the jewelry will be inside the mouth. Vertical labret, on the other hand, typically uses barbells and both ends of the barbell (with balls) are seen. This is because, unlike typical labret piercing, a vertical labret will have both holes on the outside of the lip.
Horizontal and Vertical Jewelry
What does it mean for jewelry? While many jewelry pieces can be worn in both vertical and horizontal piercings, some pieces are made for only one type. Furthermore, some pieces are made for piercings that go from inside out (like typical lip piercings or nostril piercings). All these differences often mean a specialized jewelry has to be worn.
Also, some jewelry types are made in two variants, horizontal and vertical. It usually depends on the decoration. Sometimes, the placement of the decorative bead or a gem, dangles or charms will depend on the horizontal or vertical orientation. In these cases it’s important to remember the direction of the piercing and to request either horizontal or vertical variant of the jewelry you wish to buy.