The Shocking History of Chokers (And How to Style Them)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen a choker necklace or two in your time. Whether it’s a grungy tattoo 90’s affair or a surfer-girl shell choker, this versatile piece of jewelry provides something for everyone. But did you know that the choker actually has a long history across a variety of cultures dating back to ancient civilization?
Sit tight while we take you on a journey through the fascinating history of the choker, as well as provide you with some hot tips on how to style these bad boys.
You may be surprised to hear that chokers actually hold more significant meanings than just being fashion staples worn by the likes of Britney and Gigi Hadid. Throughout history, the purpose of a choker necklace has been symbolic and practical. In Indian and Native American cultures, people of all genders have worn them for religious reasons or to cover or protect their necks from harm.
History of Choker Necklaces
To understand why chokers are so popular, you really have to look at the history of this iconic piece of jewelry.
Ancient Mystic Powers
Believe it or not, chokers date back further than your mom’s hippie braided necklaces.
The earliest records of these tight necklaces are from Ancient Mesopotamia (about where modern-day Iraq is). Many of these necklaces were made of metal or intricate beadwork and would’ve been darn heavy. There is evidence of chokers also being worn in Ancient Egypt.
And, they weren’t just worn for style. They also had spiritual significance. According to Yvonne Markowitz, previous Curator of Jewelry at the Museum of Fine Arts, ancient women wore jewelry on the most vulnerable parts of the body (e.g. head, wrists, throat) as they believed it infused them with special powers. Yes, even before Sabrina the teenage witch got her hands on them.
Anne Boleyn’s Infamous “B” Choker
One of the most iconic chokers was worn by everyone’s favorite side-piece, Anne Boleyn. Yes, the second wife of the infamous womanizer, King Henry VIII, had pretty damn good taste in jewelry, as can be seen below.
Anne Boleyn was Henry’s second wife, and he had her beheaded in 1536 after she was accused of adultery. So much for wearing necklaces for protection.
The harrowing fate of Anne Boleyn is part of the appeal of the necklace. Its history is also very mysterious. According to historian Claire Ridgeway, its origin and exact whereabouts are unclear. It was thought to be passed down to her daughter Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I), and some say it’s part of the Imperial Crown of Queen Elizabeth II, but Ridgway says that there is no proof of this.
This chocker has reemerged throughout pop culture, its fans ranging from Ugly Betty to Bella Hadid. You can even get replicas with your own initial on them from Etsy, but the original “B” has the edge.
Symbolic Chokers, French Prostitutes and English Mockery
The next time we saw the choker make a comeback was in 18th Century France. Marie Antoinette was another queen who was beheaded but also loved a good choker.
Her chokers weren’t just a fashion statement; they also became a political statement. After Marie Antoinette and a number of other influential people lost their heads to the guillotine, people in France started wearing red ribbons around their necks in solidarity.
This sparked a new trend in England in a truly British fashion, ironically. English teenagers started wearing similar red necklaces mocking the French Revolution. That’s some Cardi B level pettiness.
By the time the 19th Century came around, chokers had a much more seedy reputation. A black ribbon choker was associated with prostitutes in this period in France.
The picture above is the famous 1863 Edouard Manet painting ‘Olympia’. Many of the features, including the black ribbon around her neck, identify her as a prostitute. It caused quite a scandal at the time, and not even because of the nudity.
You can still get this salacious style of choker; check them out on our website.
Alexis Karl: Accidental Choker Icon
Back over in England, the chocker trend was set to unintentionally boom. At the turn of the century, Queen Alexandra of Denmark rose to the throne with her husband, King Edward VII. Alexandra had been wearing extravagant chokers like the one below since she was a child, and not just because she was fashion-forward.
Rumor has it that she wore these gorgeous pieces to cover up a scar she had on her neck since childhood. It’s debated whether or not that’s actually true. Nevertheless, the trend caught on in the UK.
Gender Bending in the 70s
Come the 1920s and 1940s, the choker was firmly in the American zeitgeist, being referred to as “dog collar” necklaces.
However, they started to be adopted by male rock stars in the 1970s. David Bowie, Jimmi Hendrix, and Mick Jagger set the choker trends as part of the gender-bending-glam-rock-chique. They reclaimed the choker regardless of gender, and men, woman, and all glamorous beings still rock the subversive choker look.
90s Grunge Choker to Present Day
If you’re old enough to remember the 90s, you’ll know that chokers were everywhere. It didn’t matter if you were a goth girl with a velvety vampiric choker, or a fan of the girly henna choker; there was a choker for you.
Since the 90s, chokers have been mainstream, being worn by Victoria Beckham, Avril Lavine, and Arianna Grande.
How to Style Choker Necklaces
As you’ve seen in the long history of the choker, it is a versatile piece of jewelry, which can be made elegant or deviant, whatever your flavor. But if you want some more hot tips on how to style your choker, we’ve come up with some different essential choker looks for any occasion.
1.The Layered Effect
This is a great choice for the elegant gal. You can carefully place necklaces of different lengths on your neck, chest, and décolletage. We advise starting with a dainty chocker at the top and layer as many necklaces as you like.
This is works well as a casual look, but can also pair well with a stunning ball gown if you're heading out to a fancy event.
|Hot tip: change it up between pendants, beads, and chains for a multi-material look that will pop. 🤩|
2. Match Your Choker with Your Outfit
You can get chokers in so many different materials; you could match your velvet dress with a stunning velvet choker. This look is great if you're ready to hit the club.
If you’re a fan of color coordination, this choker styling is for you. This way, you can have a choker for every outfit (the dream 😍). If this is your vibe, check out our 24-pack choker necklace set.
3. Make a Statement
Alternatively, you can let the jewelry do all the talking when it comes to your look. Go for a bold, statement choker to stand out from the crowd. Bust out a statement gold choker or a choker with metal spikes like the one above.
This look is fabulous for when you want to check out your local dive bar, or heading to a gig.
Are Chokers in Style?
The question should be, have they ever been out of style? Chokers are very much in style, being worn by supermodels and music icons alike.
In the fashion forecast, it looks like chokers are here to stay. So why not check out our wide range of chokers? We're pretty sure you'll find something you like. 😉