If you were young in the 1990s, you know exactly what I mean when I talk about a choker necklace. I don’t have to tell you. For the rest of us, it’s a necklace that’s extraordinarily close fitting around the neck.
While its most popular decade was definitely the ‘90s, the style has been around for millennia.
The first people to wear chokers were ancient Egyptians and Sumerians. Women in these civilizations wore chokers, among other necklaces, to protect them and give them power.
“A lot of ancient jewelry is protective and amuletic,” says Yvonne Markowitz, Curator Emerita of the Jewelry Museum of Fine Arts.
Chokers also enjoyed a fleeting fashion appearance during the Renaissance.
During the French Revolution, female expatriates would wear a bright red ribbon tied around their neck and sometimes threaded across their back as well. This was to pay tribute to the men who had lost their lives on the guillotine. It has been seen in portraits of Anne Boleyn in the 1500s.
By the 1860s, chokers were seen in some portraits of prostitutes. Interestingly, not long after this they appeared in portraits of the royal and wealthy elite. Alexandra, the Princess of Wales allegedly wore chokers to hide a scar on her neck. Soon wealthy women were wearing chokers covered in jewels.
In southern Germany and the Alps, chokers were referred to as Kropfkette (goiter chains) because they were designed to distract viewers from thyroid tumors known as goiters, which were fairly common among residents of those areas due to iodine deficiencies.
Chokers became mainstream popular in both the 1920s and ‘40s made from various materials like lace, velvet, or pearls. The fashion of the 1990s took a different angle on the choker. These scratchy plastic necklaces were supposed to mimic tattoos and were popular with trendsetters and goths alike.
Today, this tattoo choker surge is back and celebrities have been seen wearing them even today.