Ear stretching and lip piercing has its origins in African and US tribal cultures. In Pre-Columbian and North America, labrets were seen as a status symbol, and only the very highest ranking male members of society were allowed to wear them.

African lip piercings are almost always exclusively female, and have significances varying from tribe to tribe. For example, the Dogon tribe of Mali wears lip rings for spirituality, while the Saras-Djinjas tribe of Chad pierces a woman’s lip upon marriage to show the male’s ownership of her. Finally, the Makololo tribe of Malawi pierces the lips of its women for beauty and few Makololo men will sleep with a woman who is not pierced in this way, considering it unnatural.