Although it is confirmed by archaeologists that chokers were worn in some form by various ancient civilizations, chokers have only been comparable to today’s chokers for a few hundred years.
A prominent figure we know of who wore chokers was Anne Boleyn. In the most famous portrait of her, she is depicted wearing a pearl choker featuring a pendant in the shape of a ‘B’. As Anne Boleyn lived in the early 1500s, it is possible to presume that chokers have had some relevance to royalty and fashion for many centuries. Moving forward several centuries, chokers had a divisive reputation in the 1800s.
Royals had immense influence over popular styles, and chokers were very fashionable among the upper classes in the Victorian period because of their popularity among the royal family. In the late 19th century, chokers were commonly worn by ballerinas, acting as a part of their costuming. However, chokers were also heavily associated with prostitutes at this time. The difference in styles was clear, as upper classes wore elaborate chokers made with gemstones, pearls, and precious metals, and prostitutes wore simple ribbon of red or black.
At the end of the 20th century, the popularity of chokers continued through the influence of Queen Alexandra. The queen frequently wore chokers of various styles in order to cover a scar on her neck. Alexandra’s influence meant that the popularity of chokers – particularly pearl chokers – continued through the 1910s.
Chokers in the 20th and 21st Centuries
In the 1920s and 1940s, chokers were popular as a somewhat rebellious accessory. Young women in these decades wore chokers under the name ‘colliers de chien’, or ‘dog collars’. These chokers were made with finer materials than those of the Victorian period, such as lace and velvet. These chokers were limited to socially elite young women, as the finest examples were custom made to fit the neck, making them very expensive items.
Towards the end of the 20th century, in the early 1990s, chokers once again rose to prominence. As in the 1940s, these chokers were worn as an act of rebellion. These chokers were not made from the same luxury materials of their earlier counterparts, many were made from an elasticated plastic that enabled mass production. Although chokers faded in fashion towards the turn of the century, they once again became popular in the 2010s. Today, chokers are not as heavily linked to rebellious sub-cultures. They are no longer linked to royalty, and are not often considered to be glamorous unless made from precious gemstones like pearls and diamonds.
Numerous jewellery styles are routinely in and out of fashion. Chokers may fade out of vogue temporarily, but they always rise to the peak of popularity once more.