Brian Keith Thompson is the proprietor and Chief Piercing Officer of The World Famous Body Electric Tattoo, a Hollywood landmark situated on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Brian and Body Electric provide services to a long list of Hollywood A-listers and have been featured on countless television shows over the years. We caught up with Brian to talk fashion as it applies to not only beauty and piercing, but also his daily uniform and grooming routine.
One might think of the owner of Body Electric as someone who wears a hoodie and keeps it casual. But you’re known for your tailored suits. When did your love of suits start?
My love for suits started when I hit 42 and I started thinking about how I wanted to look and dress more my age. I wanted to stand out too, because in the in my industry, as you just noted, most people do keep it very casual. It’s part of the draw of working in this business, that you don’t have to dress up if you don’t want to, that your art speaks for itself and not what you look like. That’s the most refreshing part about an industry like the tattoo and piercing industry. But I wanted to stand out, and I love to dress up. I love how it makes you feel. I love how, when you’re wearing a suit as a man, it makes me feel like I’m in charge of the situation, that I’m like a general at Body Electric. I love the way it makes my posture better and how people engage with me when I’m wearing a suit. When I walk into a room, especially when I first started wearing a suit, the first thing people would say was, “Wow! You look great. I love this suit.” So, as I started wearing them more, I started seeing the response being more and more positive. And I started seeing that I was taken more as a professional as well, and my advice was adhered to just a little bit more because of the way I presented myself.
Do you have a go-to brand that you wear?
I have three designers that I really love. My first is Hugo Boss, and I only wear the Hugo Label — the red label. I love that suit. A 38 short jacket fits like it was made just for me. I don’t even have to tailor the jacket on a 38 short, I just tailor the trousers. My second favorite is Ted Baker. About half of my collection is Ted Baker. It’s between Hugo Boss and Ted Baker. And my third favorite designer is John Barbados, in terms of suits. I really like his suits as well.
What do you recommend when it comes to tailoring?
That’s a good question because we’re all so uniquely different. I love a fitted suit. I’m very particular in the way. I love for my trousers to come up above my ankles. I don’t like them to touch my shoes at all. I love that separation. So, if you’re wearing socks you can really showcase your socks. But for me, I have permanent socks: they’re called tattoos. And I like to show those off. It’s the juxtaposition of wearing a tailored, designer suit and being covered in tattoos. That’s the great thing about fashion: there’s really no wrong or right way to do it. The only person you have to please when you dress is that person looking back at you in the mirror. And that’s the only person I really care about when I’m dressing. I want to make sure I feel confident and I feel good.
That changes a lot [laughs]. I go through trends. I was wearing Adidas Superstar 2s for quite some time. That was kind of my go-to sneaker with my suit. Right now I’m really into the Air Force 1s. And I don’t know where I’ll be later on. But I do love shoes. I think shoes really make the suit. You can have a beautifully tailored suit on and then just really fuck it all up with the shoes if you’re not careful. You really have to know how to balance the color and the style.
Who were your fashion influencers when you were coming into your own?
Well, I came from the military, The Marine Corps. Being a Marine is being very fashion-forward. We take great pride in our uniforms. We spend hours squaring them away making sure there are no, what we call “Irish pennants,” on them — little strings hanging off of them. We would spend hours with fingernail clippers making sure your suit was completely squared away per regulations. And I think after that something solidified in my mind — that that’s the way you go forward. You know I’ve worked in corporate and I’ve seen people dress really great and people dress really not so great. I was also living in Los Angeles and watching red carpets and seeing celebrities show up at the Oscars, and I would always really identify with the ones that were wearing a really well-tailored suit. So, as I got older, that was the look I really wanted. It just looked commanding to me. I would say that was what influenced me the most, watching celebrities on red carpets and watching some of these great fitted suits.
Let’s talk about grooming. What’s your morning routine?
If someone were to watch me they would literally I think I was certifiably crazy [laughs]. My routine is quite detailed. It is the same every day. I start by polishing all the jewelry I’ll wear for that day. Every piece that’s on me from my ears to my wrist to my neck. I hand polish it all first and then I clean it and ultrasonically. I wipe it all down, even my Rolex. Everything. After I’m done with that, I pull out the suit I’m going to wear — I have about 50 in my collection. And I just go off of my mood, how I feel. If I wake up feeling a certain way, that’s the way I want to dress. So, I pick out my suit, take out a shirt, usually it’s a v-neck T-shirt, and I decide on the color of shoe. Then I shave my head and trim my beard. Everything has to be done meticulously. And once I’m ready to go and I start putting on my suit, if I don’t like the fit, I immediately take it off. I have to feel it right when I put it on. And it’s a feeling I get; it’s not something I have to see in the mirror. I can just put it on and the second I put the trousers and the jacket on, I know if I’m feeling that suit or not. And if I’m not, I need to change it because it will affect me during the day.
You took the beauty world by storm as the man behind the constellation piercings. We’ve seen your work on A-listers like Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Jessica Alba, Cardi B, and the list goes on. What do you love about piercing?
I love that it’s always different. It’s very dynamic. People are always asking if I’m a tattoo artist. And I say I’m not. If you put a gun to my head and told me to draw something, you might as well just pull the trigger because nothing is going to come out of me that’s worth anything. I’m not strong in that type of art at all. But piercing is something that just speaks to me. My favorite things to pierce are the ears. I could literally do it all day every day and love it. And I feel that I can always grow and there’s always room to get better. You can never peak as a piercer as far as your skill goes. It’s a practice, like being an attorney or being a doctor. It’s something you get better at as you do more and more. I love being in an industry and doing a job where I have the potential to grow every day.
How do you approach piercing and the design work you do from a fashion standpoint?
Well, I look at the client from their shoes to the way they wear their hair to their makeup to the jewelry they have on to the way they hold themselves. You can tell a lot about someone by their body language. If they’re more closed in and shy, they’re going to be a little more dressed down or they may not want to be so loud. You can also tell so much about someone the way they walk in and that first hello. They say, “Hey, what’s going on?” and I’m reading them immediately. Once I walk up to them with my clipboard, I’m taking it all in. I don’t know how but I can just I can decorate very quickly. It doesn’t take me very long to figure out — they give me the direction and the freedom to do what I want. If they say “Hey, I’ve got this much money and this is what I want,” then I can work off of that. But I do go off of their fashion — the fashion of everything, the fashion of how they wear their hair to their make up to their jewelry to their clothing. I use all of that in the way I decorate.