Chokers have been around for centuries, going as far back as the royal Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, and were favoured too, by certain queens of England. Some chokers were of hammered gold, or strung with pearls and diamonds, while others consisted of a simple red ribbon obtained at the market.

During the 1700’s British teenagers used to wear them to ridicule the French, with this trend carrying on throughout the Victorian era, until the psychedelic 1970s, when they were worn more by men than women.

The history of chokers is long and fascinating, with plenty of glamour, drama, superstitions, and gender-bending, making this simple piece of jewellery, everything but simple! The history of chokers includes:

Their Healing Powers In Ancient Egypt

Egyptian Choker

During ancient Egyptian times, jewellery was placed on the areas of the body, such as the head, wrists, and neck, where it was thought that the wearer needed the most protection. Egyptians those days, believed that chokers had special protective abilities, and wore them regularly as protection from harm. These jewellery pieces were often made from gold or lapis lazuli, and instead of simply being a fashion style, were worn primarily as protection.

Chokers Used In 18th Century Britain To Ridicule The French

French style choker

The French Revolution was a severe time in history when terror reigned. Increased prices for bread triggered riots, famine was everywhere, and many countrymen were beheaded by the royals. The British were everything but sympathetic to their neighbours across the sea, and it was at this time that the young British ladies began wearing red ribbon chokers as their way of mocking the decapitations that were taking place.

The British detested the French and donned the chokers to taunt the French, whom they referred to then as “frogs,” a derogatory name that is still used today. Despite the negative reasons for wearing the red ribbon chokers, they became a highly fashionable piece of jewellery during that terrible time in history.

They Were A Favourite With Victorian Queens

Victorian queens choker

Contrary to what some people believe, the Victorians were far from being dull and dowdy, and they loved nothing better than adorning themselves whenever the opportunity arose. One of these women was Alexandra of Denmark, who became Queen of the UK after Queen Victoria.

Her taste in jewellery was greatly influenced by Indian styles, because of her numerous trips to India, with the thick-banded necklaces, nicknamed “dog collars” being her favourite. Her love for this piece of jewellery was not simply for aesthetic reasons, however, but rather because of a scar on her neck after undergoing thyroid surgery. The choker not only looked beautiful, but it did an excellent job too, of hiding the unsightly scar.

The Queen did not set the trend though, because she was quite old already when she became queen in 1901, and was far too conservative too, to be what history would refer to, as a trendsetter. She wore the chokers and high stand-up collar fashions of the latter part of the Victorian era. She continued wearing them even after the styles weren’t fashionable any longer.

Even Poor Victorians Could Wear Chokers

Cheap choker

In Victorian England, it was mainly the wealthy elite that could afford to buy jewellery made from pearls, diamonds, and other expensive materials. However, the choker was an item of jewellery that even the poor women could afford, by fashioning them out of strips of velvet ribbon to which brooches or pendants were attached. Anyone lucky enough to own an heirloom piece of jewellery and have enough money to buy a length of velvet ribbon from a department store, could have a choker and be in fashion.

With the Second Industrial Revolution, came mass-production, and every young girl could buy a strip of velvet with a white metal fake jewel pendant for 10 cents. In fact, in the 1800s, chokers were so plentiful, that there was a wide variety available in the mail-order books from retailers. Whether you made your own or bought one through mail-order, chokers were not only for the rich elite anymore.

With The 1920's Came Art Deco Chokers

Art deco choker

Chokers weren’t as trendy at the start of the 1920s as they were a few decades previously, with short necklaces being worn with the short, bobbed haircuts of the time. Instead, chokers took on more intricate, heavy Art Deco styles, with either real or fake diamonds, pearls, and other types of precious gems.

In The ’70s Chokers Were A Favourite With Men

Mens Choker

Chokers became incredibly fashionable in the 1970s but by men this time, rather than women. Famous rock stars like Jimi Hendrix David Bowie and Mick Jagger were familiar with gender-bending and influenced the choker as a men’s fashion trend in a big way, with many males all over the world, adding chokers to their jewellery collections.

In The 1990s The Choker Became An Essential Part Of The Punk Look

Punk necklace choker

Although there was a revival of chokers in the ’90s, instead of the elaborate, Art Deco versions dripping with gemstones that were incredibly popular in the first half of the century, the jewellery item now took on the angsty, grunge look of the Punk trend.

Women enjoyed wearing chokers made from velvet or other types of fabric, with trinkets or metal clasps, which gave them the look of a London 1970’s Punk Rocker. Earlier punk styles were used with chokers, like metal chains, dog collars, and padlocks.

People wondered what it was about the choker that gave off that emo or rebellious attitude to those who followed the Punk scene. According to those in the know, it is because the exposed neck is vulnerable to being cut or the head removed from the body completely, and the choker is a means of protecting that vulnerable line across the throat from being sliced open.

In Conclusion

It’s hard to believe that there was so much symbolism attached to the simple choker, from the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, to the Queen of England, to the emo kids of the ’90s. There is every chance that the choker will never go out of fashion. 

March 13, 2021 — CG Hart
Tags: choker