One search term that has been consistently popular since the inception of the Internet is “nipple piercing.” There have been rumors of references to Roman centurions having pierced nipples to fasten their short dress capes, but in more recent interviews, many people have confessed that much modern piercing lore was invented or exaggerated by a piercing enthusiast named Doug Malloy. He is the one who introduced Jim Ward, founder of Gauntlet and Fakir Musafar, of Bodyplay magazine, and hosted "T&P (tattooing and piercing) socials" in the 70s. However the modern pierced nipple has grown in prominence and popularity much like the Internet where this topic leads picture and image search requests over the last decade.
Just a decade ago, the mention of a nipple piercing often produced confused and shocked looks. Nowadays, the most common reaction is a knowing “oh..” and/or indifference. Pierced nipples are certainly not commonplace, but they have moved from the fringe underground to a secure position as part of modern pop culture. And this was before that fatal moment with Janet Jackson and a malfunctioning wardrobe. The site of a pop diva's pierced and adorned breast could only further cement the nipple as an object of fetish worship. Mainstream musicians sport nipple rings openly and erotic culture publications regularly include models with fetish body modifications like nose, nipple and navel rings.
Placement of nipple piercings is most often horizontally through the areola, just behind the main bud of the nipple. Sometimes this piercing is done vertically, either as a solo piercing or paired with a horizontal piercing. Thickness of the jewelry worn in a nipple piercing should be at least 14 gauge to avoid tissue tearing. Length or diameter of the jewelry is determined by how much tissue the piercing encompasses, and starter jewelry can be either a barbell or a ring. Fixed or captured bead rings are the most popular as they are secure to wear and easy to clean.
Nipple piercings can take between three and six months to heal on average, with many women finding it can take between six months and a year for their nipple piercings to heal. Men’s nipples heal faster due to differences in tissue composition and hormones. Many women experience extra issues with healing nipple piercings during their menstrual cycles. For women who are considering having children, so far there does not appear to be any interference between well-healed piercings and breast feeding, although it is not recommended to get new piercings before, during or after pregnancy due to changes of body state.
Once healed, many people with pierced nipples find the tissue more developed, with increased sensation and responsiveness. Men especially report increases in tissue thickness and tactile sensitivity. A variety of jewelry styles is available for wear in a well established piercing including curved barbells, horseshoe attachments and many variations for attaching chains and dangles.
To learn more about piercing, you might like Body Piercing: A Medical Dictionary, Bibliography, And Annotated Research Guide To Internet References by Icon Health Publications.
For body piercing aftercare, you might like Tattoo Goo Deluxe Tattoo & Piercing Care Kit or X-Pression & Blue Wave Piercing Aftercare Kit