Choker necklaces are the prime-time of high fashion right now, with stylish stars like Kendall Jenner and Rihanna rocking one almost on the daily. These little necklaces have been fashionable since the ‘70s and have transformed from the standout piece to the cute accessory worn with almost any outfit. But this simple and cute ribbon worn around the neck has had a very different meaning throughout history.
From ballerinas and the upper class in the late 19th century wearing it as a sign of privilege, but also having ties to prostitution in the same era, as seen in Manet’s famous painting Olympia (1861). It’s clear to see that fashion has come a long way to wearing it as a mainstream piece of jewellery.
But the history doesn’t end there, as women in Germany and Austria used it towards the end of the 19th century to hide lumps on their necks cause by goiter, a disease common across the Alps at the time. It then slowly returned back in the 1920s and ‘30s to create the beloved Art Deco style in America. Women in the US began experimenting with the new “colliers de chien” trend, which also translated to “dog collars” from French. Yet whilst we may think of dog collars closely related to the BDSM submissive collar, it could easily be back tracked to 18th Century slavery, where chokers represented oppression at its largest.
Whilst the choker ranges from collars to jewellery, one thing these accessories have in common is showing one’s status. You were either wearing gold encrusted with diamonds and pearls if you were upper class, or black ribbon and silver chains if you were controlled by the rich. Neverthless, the choker we know today is not an oppressing piece of material despite its history.
Although the trend never truly died out after the 1930s, it was revived again, but by men in the ‘70s this time. With Mick Jagger and Jimi Kendrix embracing the hippy culture, and Elvis Presley bringing the choker to rock n roll, the black ribbon soon became a piece of jewellery accepted by all genders, styles and social classes.
Which brings us to the current day where chokers are in style again, decorating the necks of women in both daytime and evening wear. Whether it has a history of elegance, danger or oppression the choker is finally here to stay – and says nothing about your monetary status.