The History of Chokers and Why They Made a Comeback

By on July 19, 2019

The history of the choker necklace — a necklace worn close to the neck — goes back hundreds of years. Many drawings from the early Ancient Egyptians and the Sumer Empire, located in Mesopotamia, depict its people in gold chokers that were thought to have special powers, if not simply to protect the individuals from other’s powers.  

 In more recent times, some history books account for the fashion statement jewelry showing up in the French Revolution around 1798. However, other historians claim this type of jewelry first appeared in 1507 with a portrait of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII of England.

 Lady Boleyn often posed for paintings wearing interesting chokers from the popular letter “B” to various bright beads or pearls and ribbons. The styles have been nearly always excessive and more elegant and reserved for special occasions wear like having your portrait painted or extravagant balls.

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 The French Revolution

 During the French Revolution, French women expatriates were seen wearing red ribbons around their necks. This was to pay homage to those men and women who lost their lives to the guillotine and would have been around 1790.

 The Victorian Era

During this time, society women wore chokers, many with expensive jewels, as a fashion statement. They were copying the Princess of Wales, Alexandra, who was believed to wear the tight neck-wear to cover a scar she received during a childhood operation.

 This princess became a trendsetter as many wealthy women around the world began copying her look, right down to her necklace. Most of these chokers were made with expensive diamonds, pearls, rubies, emeralds and other beautiful gems.

 The 19th Century

 Many women, especially in Austria and Germany, picked up the choker trend out of necessity during this period of time. They would use them to hide lumps on their necks, often caused by goiters, a disease common in the Alps.

 Simple ribbon chokers, worn by women in other areas of the world, were symbols of prostitution. This was on full display with the 1863 painting by Edouard Manet titled “Olympia.” After this short-lived period of the choker, ballerinas donned them as the only acceptable accessory that would stay put during jumps and twirls.

 The 1920s through 1940s

 The roaring 20s had women wearing flapper dresses and necklaces to match. Some of their neckwear were long strings of pearls or beads, but many of them opted for ribbon or velvet chokers, also adorned with colorful beads.

 During the 40s, chokers were known as “dog collars” and looked more like an Art Deco style accessory. At this time, this piece of jewelry actually seemed to “choke” the wearer with its tight, scratchy and sometimes wire materials.

 The 1960 and 70s

 The hippie culture did not discriminate on who could wear a choker. Men and women wore the tight necklaces, made of some very diverse materials. Some chokers were constructed out of seashells, and others made of (real) fur.

 At the time, many of the women had matching headbands that accented the small flowers in their hair. A crochet choker of daisies or other flowers would pair nicely with a long flowing skirt, adding to the “romance” of the era.

 The chokers were worn daily and not simply on special occasions. Women and men wore them to the store, to school and mostly at concerts and conscientious gatherings, aka protests. Nearly every photograph of the great Woodstock gathering features more than one individual wearing a different type of choker.

 The 1990s

 It’s not that chokers disappeared altogether between the 70s and 90s, the late Princess Diana wore some elegant choker necklaces during this time; however, they were not as popular with the general public as they were at other times.

 During the 1990s, Gothic was a major trend in dress and so too were the thick chokers. Many of them had charms hanging from them in various shapes. Crosses, animal heads, skulls, spikes and fangs and were large as well as heavy when dangling from a choker necklace.

 Another type of choker of the time was called the tattoo choker. These are thin wires, mostly curved into loops and hugged the neck closer than other style chokers. They could be made of heavy cords, rope, wires or thin ribbons and many were handmade as a DIY project.


 As with all trends in clothing and accessories, they begin on the fashion stage first. In the mid-2010s, the models walking down the catwalk began showing off their chokers that were once popular in the 90s. After all, everything old is new again when it comes to fashion and the accessories that accompany them.

 Once a trend is set during Fashion Week, either in Paris, New York, Milan or London, the average woman, can count on that style to reach her nearest clothing store by the following season, if not sooner. Naturally, the biggest movie and music stars will pick up the fashion style before it makes it to a local mall near you.

 The chokers worn today are more about combinations. This could mean combining colors, patterns, textures and/or materials. Pairing a leather strap with a lace encircled porcelain cameo is likened to “biker meets ballerina” or mixing bold colors with black accents is another trendy choker choice.

 Another way women are wearing their chokers is with chains. This could be heavy or lightweight chains made of gold, silver or brass. They could be a thick fabric and have stripes or polka dots or a simple string of large colorful beads or pearls.


 There are some individuals, as well as national organizations, that believe the choker necklace dates back to the days of captured black people in Africa. That the choker necklace is a representation of those who were then brought to America on Slave Ships. This narrative would have been well after the Egyptian period, but before many of the other eras.

Another storyline about choker necklaces is connected to rough sex. This is also a false narrative and should be ignored.

 Women, and sometimes men, choose to wear a choker necklace because it draws the attention to their neck and makes a statement about their outfit rather than any type of homage to one group or another. Jewelry is meant for fun and fashion and always will be. 


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The History of Chokers and Why They Made a Comeback