Strolling around the streets, it seems that a new mania has taken place among fashion victims. Misogynists might claim that girls have decided to wear a collar, at last, but choker necklaces are more than what they resemble. They are the proof that people’s tastes never change.
All of us can remember how fashionable they were in the ‘90s. We used to buy magazines with the only purpose of receiving a trendy choker as a gift. Anyway, as it is when calling back memories of a grooming old lady passed away, who is always remembered younger than she really was, the same thing happens when thinking about chokers: they seem to be always in their twenties. In fact, it might be difficult to identify this object throughout the pre-90s history. It has been restyled so many times that recognising it has become really tough.
If you think about it, doesn’t getting old sometimes requires a facelift? Well, considering that Native Americans made their chokers using bones, in this case the answer could be positive! In their tradition, chokers were a neck protection for warriors and ornaments for tribal ceremonies. They might have inherited the former practice from the world’s earliest civilizations, the Ancient Egyptians one and the Sumer of Mesopotamia. These populations strongly believed in the power those amulets were supposed to give them. Remaining in the African area, chokers had an important role also in the Maasai culture, especially when linked to weddings. In fact, from the day of their marriage onwards, brides used to wear bright coloured crafted chokers, which size was a wealth index. And guess what? Those necklaces still had a strong connection with wealth also many years later, in the 1700s. In fact, English and Spanish royals fell in love with them. Differently, during the fervour of the French Revolution, commoners adopted red chokers as a silent sign of solidarity to those who were beheaded by the guillotine. Such an homage become a trend when English people decided to support the French cause. In particular, they used to wear those symbols using a ribbon tied in the back, or crossed and adorned with jewelled baubles or cameo pins for a more fashionable look.
But in a hundred years, a swing occurred. Despite the fact that both looking at Renaissance and 1800s portraits chokers can be seen worn on many aristocratic throats – such as on the Anne Boleyn and the Queen Victoria’s ones – they became an accessory that characterised paintings starring prostitutes. A well known example is the Manet’s 1863 portrait of Olympia, name usually associated with girls selling their body. What’s more, those necklaces can also be seen in many Degas’ paintings featuring ballerinas. In fact, in those times being a ballerina was something for low class young ladies doomed to become prostitutes at the end of their careers. Although this unhappy parenthesis, chokers recover thanks to Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who became princess of Wales at the beginning of the 20th century. It is said she used to wear such an ornament in order to hide a childhood scar, but she had such an influence on fashion that high society ladies started copying her. In the ‘20s they were in vogue again, beaded or made of ribbon, and then in the ‘40s in the form of “dog collars” (just to give misogynous something to talk about) made of lace, ribbon, pearls, velvet or even diamonds. And then, they came back once again in the ‘90s, when the “tattoo” choker we all know so well had its moment among trendsetters and Goths.
Sometimes it might happen that becoming old implies feeling tired and rest on memories. But it is not so for this fashion veteran. In fact, right in these days it is conquering the catwalks again. It allied with Philipp Plein, then it joined forces with Giorgio Armani, Etro, Versace, Guy Laroche, Alexander McQueen, Hermès, Zuhair Murad, Elie Saab and Christian Dior. And it was so, by wearing armours made of heavy chains, brass, jewels, stripes, pearls, lace and even plastic, that it re-established its reign, having our necks as subjects.