A Historic Snapshot into the Meanings & Symbolism of Chokers

October 17, 2018

A Historic Snapshot into the Meanings & Symbolism of Chokers

For centuries, chokers have been prevalent through various chapters of history, and every century introduces us to a new example and symbolic value of these ornaments. We can see their historic presence in various cultures across the world, including Egyptian, European, Native American, Chinese and even Indian cultures.


Their symbolism and meaning has undergone rapid changes throughout the course of history, from being regarded as symbols of political aggression to ornaments that were specifically used to identify prostitutes, and finally, intricate pieces of trendy jewellery that became the hottest fashion trend of the season. In this article, we will take a detailed view of all the historic highlights and symbolic narratives about the significance and meaning of chokers. Let’s get started, shall we?

1507: Anne Boleyn

Most people are unaware of the fact that it was Anne Boleyn who funnelled in the exciting trend of chokers. Anne Boleyn was undoubtedly one of the most fashionable women of her period, and in a conservative English society, she introduced many trends inspired by her love of fashion discovered during her time spent in the courts of France.



She was always seen wearing a lovely choker necklace, which can also be seen in her paintings, and this famous necklace was created with pearls, and a letter B pendant, one that she also wore around her neck.

1798: The French Revolution

The French Revolution was a tumultuous period of political aggression and revolt against the French monarchy, and amongst all the symbols used by the French people to express their hatred for their extravagant monarchs and nobility, chokers were undoubtedly the most powerful and poignant.



The women began wearing a political dress with red ribbons around their necks as a tribute and homage to all those who were slaughtered at the guillotine. This ribbon was worn in several different ways, around the neck like a simple choker, or tied around the back and shoulders to create an X.

1860: Manet’s Olympia

During the 1860s, choker necklaces were regarded as ornamentation that was limited to prostitutes. This claim can be evidenced by the famous painting Olympia, painted by Manet in 1863, which depicts a prostitute flaunting a choker-like ribbon in her neck.


1800-1900: Victorian Era

Despite the fact that chokers were regarded as symbols of prostitution in some parts of Europe, they enjoyed a great deal of popularity in England, especially during the Victoria era. Royals were also seen flaunting pearl chokers along with layers of other necklaces and pendants. And as seen in the paintings by Edgar Degas during the 1870s and 1880s, ballerinas wore chokers as part of their dancing costumes.

Queen Victoria has been seen wearing chokers in the various portraits that were created in her reign, and Princess of Wales, Alexandra, was extremely famous for her love for chokers. It is said that she used chokers as a way to cover her scar, which she garnered after a childhood operation. The beautiful Alexandra was extremely conscious about the ugliness of this scar, and during her various tenures in India, she grew fascinated with the exotic Indian jewellery trends, including chokers which she brought home and turned into a raging trend amongst the women of court and nobility.


Princess Alexandra had a profound influence on the fashions of her time, and the trends she set, including her love for chokers that went on to be flaunted for another 50 years or more after her death. The woman of the society and nobility, along with other wealthy women of the Victoria era, would flaunt chokers adorned with pearls, crystals and jewels to create a fashion statement fit for a queen!

1920s & 1940s: Vintage Charm

The roaring 20s and 40s were a great time to luxuriate in the delicate femininity of chokers, and women were seen flaunting this trend with ribbons, beads, crystals, pearls and lots more. However, they weren’t called chokers back then, but rather, they were known as dog collars.

Colliers de Chien, as they were known in Paris, began to undergo countless variations and soon, women could pick them out and flaunt them in a wide variety of materials, including ribbon, velvet, pearls, lace and even diamonds. Needless to say, they were a symbol of elite glamour.


In 1944, Life Magazine created an iconic spread aimed at the revival of the raging trend of dog collars, which were increasing being flaunted by both dogs and human beings.

The Raging 90s: Dog Collars become Chokers

As with every single trend, the raging 90s were the pinnacle of all things fashionable, and chokers garnered a great deal of attention during this time. It was a time when Claire’s was the hottest destination to shop a fabulous variety in chokers, for designers were churning out iconic designs. We saw chokers make their way to the stage with Christian Aguilera and Britney Spears, while Gwyneth Paltrow and others flaunted it at the Oscar red carpet.


Soon, the chokers underwent a bold gothic makeover, and women began flaunting chokers with pentagrams, NIN gothic accents, spiked collars, and even silver ball chains. If that wasn’t enough, designers decided to funnel in the tattoo choker, which turned out to be an insanely adorable and affordable accessory that became the hottest prom night ornament throughout America. These tattoo chokers were usually made with plastic and given a netted design with scratchy textures.

2015 and Onwards: Choker Revival




Needless to say, 2015 was the fabulous year that brought chokers to the centre-stage of fashion, and from then on, they became a regular accessory on the runways. Today, chokers are available in a wide variety of materials, fabrics, patterns, colour palettes, ornamentation and textures. You can pick out embroidered floral chokers, applique chokers, brass, striped, bejewelled, pearls, heavy chains, metallic detailing and even butterfly accent chokers.

With a history that goes beyond 500 years, it is amazing to see how the chokers have evolved to become the raging trend we all flaunt today.

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