Jim Ward (born 1941) is well-known as an American body piercer. His business called the Gauntlet, which opened in 1978 and closed in 1998 after being sold to a new owner the year before, was the first of its type in the United States and the beginning of the American body piercing industry. In a 2004 documentary, entitled The Social History of Piercing, MTV called Ward “the granddaddy of the modern body piercing movement.”
In 1967 in New York Ward joined the New York Motorbike Club, a gay S/M group, and experimented with nipple piercing. During this time he also studied jewelry making. Ward then moved to Colorado, where he joined the gay Rocky Mountaineer Motorcycle Club and further experimented with piercing, genital in particular.
In 1973, Ward moved to West Hollywood (a gay village of Los Angeles) where he met Richard Simonton, who was also known by the name Doug Malloy. Together they developed the basic techniques and equipment that have become piercing industry standard.
With funding from Simonton (derived from his work with the Muzak corporation), Ward began using his home as a private piercing studio in 1975. Dubbing his studio the Gauntlet, he drew an initial clientele from a mailing list provided by Simonton and by running classified ads in local gay and fetish publications. After three years of continued refinement with techniques and equipment, Ward opened the Gauntlet as a commercial storefront operation in West Hollywood on 17 November 1978. The establishment of this business — the first of its type in the United States — was the beginning of the American body piercing industry.
Ward pioneered many body piercing jewelry designs in America, including the fixed bead ring and internally threaded barbells. He was introduced to barbell style jewelry by Horst Streckenbach (“Tattoo Samy”), a tattooist and piercer from Frankfurt, Germany, and his student Manfred “Tattoo” Kohrs from Hanover, Germany. Ward stated, “The first barbells I recall came from Germany. Doug had made contact with Tattoo Samy, a tattooist and piercer from Frankfurt. Over the years Samy came to the States a number of times and frequently showed up in LA to visit Doug. On one of his first visits he showed us the barbell studs that he used in some piercings. They were internally threaded, a feature that made so much sense that I immediately set out to recreate them for my own customers.”
In 1977, with the assistance of Simonton and Fakir Musafar, Ward started the piercing magazine Piercing Fans International Quarterly (PFIQ). PFIQ was a controversial publication, due to its graphic portrayal of nudity and the piercing process. In some countries it was considered obscene, and confiscated by postal customs officials. It ceased publication in 1997 when Ward sold Gauntlet. Gauntlet failed under its new owner and closed in 1998.
Jim Ward was inducted into the Leather Hall of Fame in 2020.
He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Society of Janus.