Branding Their Bodies

Not just for cattle: Age-old tradition becoming a "hot" new trend.

ByABC News
November 29, 2007, 6:02 PM

Nov.29, 2007 — -- In the good old days of cutting-edge rebellion, getting a tattoo was a sign of rebellion for ordinary men.

But times have changed, and so have the trends. Tattoos have become commonplace, and body modification has become weirder and wilder than ever before. The latest fad in England is new and hot -- literally.

As seen in the movie "Jarhead," branding is traditionally associated with severe physical pain and, of course, with livestock. Now people are paying anywhere from $150 to upward of $1,000 to have the procedure done on themselves.

The Web site YouTube offers quite a selection of video on the topic -- kids at home, using the crudest of methods to permanently scar themselves has got people curious and concerned.

"Nightline" went up to the city of Manchester, to visit one of the only tattoo studios in Great Britain that offers branding, and to find out why it is so popular.

"People have become desensitized to what was once quite uncommon and alternative, and they're looking for the next step," said Graham Smith, owner of the Holier Than Though.

He's got two brands himself.

Smith's employee Marcus also has a pair. But what does it feel like?

"Intense," said Marcus. "Painful I find is the wrong word for it. It's a sharp sensation. The first couple of strikes is the worst, and then your body becomes accustomed."

So who are the people branding themselves?

"Between 20-[year-old] to 25-year-old people," said Smith, "generally alternative people, are the most common clients. But we have had policemen, teachers, nurses, students -- a whole range of people."

Some have argued that the appeal of branding comes from an attraction to pain and the desire to have the ability to withstand it.

"Pain's really important in body art," said Professor Pitts Taylor. "People don't usually get anaesthetized when they undergo body art procedures -- mainly because part of the ritual is to be able to undergo a really painful experience."

But at Smith's studio, he focuses on what he feels is the spiritual side of the procedure.