Nothing tops off an outfit like a pair of hoop earrings; they are bold, eye-catching, and make a statement. The trend of wearing hoop earrings might seem all the rage right now. However, you might be surprised to learn that the tradition is centuries-old. For thousands of years, men and women of many cultures have proudly worn hoop earrings. Hoops are some of the oldest (and boldest) accessories around--and for a good reason. They are woven through numerous ancient cultures and remain a significant style trend worldwide.
But where did hoop earrings originate? Which culture was the first to wear hoops? What is the symbolism of wearing hoop earrings?
Time to do some digging into the incredible history of hoop earrings. From ancient beginnings to modern trends, encircled in this single accessory is a world of culture and tradition.
We all remember Sex and the City and Carrie Bradshaw’s affinity for gold jewellery. But when she dismissed it as “ghetto” (in response to the engagement ring her boyfriend picked out for her), she further emphasised the classist rhetoric surrounding gold jewellery—often worn by Black and Latinx women—as inferior rather than the statement of power that it truly is. And while Bradshaw would go on to further appropriate nameplate necklaces (popularised by the southern Californian “Chola” sub-culture in the ’80s and ’90s), the show failed to highlight that some trends—particularly hoop earrings—have been mainstays in Black and Latinx communities long before they were plastered on your favourite sitcom or Instagram feed.
Hoop earrings (the bigger, the better) have been worn by Black and Latinx women as symbols of resistance and strength for decades, dating back to ancient Egyptian royalty like Cleopatra and Nefertiti. Fashion and beauty reporter Sha Ravine Spencer shares, “Over time, as this iconic piece of jewellery, has morphed and been passed down through generations, it has upheld its symbolism of womanhood, empowerment, culture, and pride.”
Hoop earrings often go in and out of style, but they continue to be one of the most recognisable and beloved types of jewellery. They’re one of the oldest accessories in human history and have been worn in many ancient cultures.
What’s fascinating about hoop earrings is how their meaning and symbolism has changed in various cultures throughout history. They’ve been worn as symbols of royalty, nobility, power, unity, philosophy and even femininity, to name a few.
Hoop Earrings: Ancient Origins
The first thing to note is that earrings have been around since ancient times. They also became popular throughout many cultures in the ancient world. For example, hoop earrings made their debut in areas around Mesopotamia. Historians say Sumerian women wore the first gold hoop earrings around 2500 BCE. Concurrently, the ancient peoples of the African civilisation, Nubia (now Sudan), were some of the first people in the world to wear hoops.
Over time, hoops were ingrained into culture and tradition. They made a debut in Egyptian culture around 1500 BCE. What made this accessory so widely and universally beloved? Some believed hoop earrings symbolised wealth, while others wore them to emphasise beauty.
Supported by rich symbolism, hoop earrings eventually made their way into other parts of the world. Greek goldsmiths started to make hoop earrings in the first millennium, BCE. Etruscan goldsmiths weren’t far behind. The Greeks and Etruscans created their own variation, which they considered a sign of wealth and prosperity. Both cultures took pride in combining accessories with art while conceptualising their rendition of this beloved jewellery. Each set featured intricate designs and embellishments like beads, gemstones and flowers.
Soon, hoop earrings infiltrated the expanding and dominating Roman Empire. At first, these earrings were not welcome in Roman culture. However, hoop earrings became a popular accessory among men and women as the empire grew. Even Julius Caesar, arguably Rome’s most famous leader, wore hoops when he ruled the empire. “Veni, Vidi, Vici”? In the case of hoop earrings, it would seem so!
As Rome’s influence in the ancient world declined, other forms of hoop earrings emerged. For example, Byzantine hoops became popular among ancient cultures. These hoops were plain gold with pearl pendants hung on chains — an unmistakable trend in the ancient world.
Did hoop earrings remain popular in subsequent years? Unfortunately, the dark ages extinguished many trends, and hoop earrings fell out of fashion.
What was similar in how people wore hoops was how they wore them to express their devotion to their Gods. Individuals would decorate their hoops with symbols that paid homage to specific Gods, which continues in many cultures, including Asian and Latin-American countries.
Yes, your virgencita hoops count, and that’s a tradition that began long before Latinas wore hoops. Since ancient times, hoops have been part of the way individuals show up to the world. Whether to demonstrate status, devotion, or fashion, hoops have been an important part of history.
It’s no surprise then that hoops have become a symbol of resilience in the lives of brown and Black individuals. Owning a pair of hoops as a kid is almost a right of passage for many Latinas. Your ears are pierced as soon as your mother can get someone to do it, and a pair of studs or micro-hoops are placed on your ears as training wheels.
For many Latinas, showing up unapologetically with our values and beliefs is represented in a pair of hoops. So while some might see hoops as a trendy statement piece of jewellery, Latinas recognise them to be so much more than that.
Some Latinas who consider hoops to be a part of their identity also feel the need to stop wearing them to be taken seriously. That is, until women like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez started pushing the boundaries of what is and is not socially acceptable to wear. AOC made it a point to show up in her hoop earrings and, in many ways, validate the identity of so many Latinas who had previously felt the need to keep their hoop earrings tucked away in their jewellery box and reserved for the weekend. Some even considered her wearing hoops a “radical act.”
Table of Contents
- 1 Frequently Asked Questions About Hoop Earrings
- 2 Who popularised hoop earrings?
- 3 Who started the big hoop earring trend?
- 4 Are hoop earrings fashionable?
- 5 Why do Hispanic girls wear hoop earrings?
- 6 Hoop Earrings In The 20th Century
- 7 The Meaning Behind The Hoops
- 8 Choose Your Hoops In Whatever Color You Like
- 9 Big Hoop Earrings For Going Out, Small Hoops For Work
Frequently Asked Questions About Hoop Earrings
Hoop earrings originated in Mesopotamia, and it was ancient peoples of the African civilisation that first wore hoops. Sumerian women around 2500 B.C.E. are believed to be the earliest adopters of wearing hoop earrings.
Hoop earrings originated in Africa, dating back to Nubia. According to Yekaterina Barbash, associate curator of Egyptian art at the Brooklyn Museum, this civilisation existed in the fourth century in what is now present-day Sudan. In ancient Egypt, both men and women wore hoop earrings.
Timeless: Hoops continue to be a prominent trend in modern times. They will remain fashionable forever as hoops are elegant and make you feel stylish at any age.
In Latinx culture, hoops represent the “sazón” of minority groups that wear these accessories to signify and represent their solidarity with their cultural identity. Once seen as low-class and distasteful, hoop earrings have now surfaced as a popular trend among celebrities and fashion shows.
Hoop Earrings In The 20th Century
In the United States in the 1900s, there was a mix of negativity around hoop earrings. Many people saw them as symbolising Native American and Latino culture. As a result, many American women stopped wearing earrings altogether not to be categorised as an immigrant.
The stigma surrounding ear piercings in the United States was short-lived. By 1910, simpler hairstyles, lower cut outfits, and updos flaunted the ears instead of hiding them. This led to a rebirth of earring popularity among American women.
The early 1920s introduced exotic styles that brought the hoop earring back into the spotlight in America thanks to Spanish and Egyptian influences. In addition, the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 rebirthed the notion of gold hoop earrings symbolising power and high social status.
The updos and short hairstyles of the 1920s and 30s made earrings an essential finishing touch to outfits. Shoulders were being exposed with low-cut blouses, and a pair of gorgeous hoops matched perfectly. American entertainer Josephine Baker loved wearing gold hoops on stage.
Hoop earrings were the signature look of the 1960s as they matched with the clean, straight-hair trend of the decade.
In the 1960s, more and more women straightened their hair and wore hoop earrings. They became a symbol of female power during the feminist movement, especially among African American and Latina women. Hoop earrings became synonymous with female empowerment during the ‘60s and ‘70s and were the accessory of choice to make a statement. During the 1970s, hoops in silver, chrome, kinetic, and tribal designs were very popular. Cher and Diana Ross were notorious for flaunting large hoops with intricate designs.
The 1980s brought new jewellery designs with jagged shapes and drops. This pushed hoop earrings to the back burner temporarily, although the design never went out of style.
Thanks to hip hop culture and Latino influence, hoops continued to be popular among women throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
The Meaning Behind The Hoops
Hoop earrings are worn by many people throughout the world today and continue to be one of the oldest fashion trends alive.
Hoops are empowering. They symbolise strength and international fashion. Being a circle, hoop earrings show unity, infinity, and wholeness.
A hoop is a circle, and while hoop earrings have to open at some point for them to be placed on an ear, the idea of the circle is that it is infinite, like time. The things in nature that give us life are circular: the sun, the earth, and the womb. The circle is the ultimate symbol of life having no beginning and no end. Hoop earrings are a symbol, quite plainly, of a power that has purpose and meaning.
But as we know based on research, hoop earrings – likely more than any other form of jewellery – are timeless and genderless. It is a style that spans culture and ages and likely will continue to for centuries to come. But why? What is it about the hoop that makes it more appealing than, say, a stud? That makes it seem more timeless? Well, for one, the shape of it says a lot.
Hoop earrings have been a staple of Latino culture. As minorities and immigrants in America and Europe, hoop earrings became a symbol of strength, identity, and resistance to discrimination. For young Latino girls, it is common to receive a pair of small hoop earrings at a young age from their mothers or grandmothers.
Hoop earrings are for the bold. With so many different designs and sizes, hoop jewellery stands out more than any other type of earring. Stud piercings blend in and can be easily overlooked while dangling hoops demand attention.
Jennifer Lopez, Michelle Obama, and Beyonce are just some influential women in today’s culture who love sporting hoops. They are seen as more than just fashion pieces, but respectful nods to the Dominican and African cultures where they originated from.
Throughout history, hoop earrings have carried different meanings and symbols in various cultures around the world.
For most ethnic cultures today, they’re representations of their heritage and history.
As they’re mostly a woman’s accessories, they also represent femininity and female strength.
Over the years, however, hoop earrings have also been symbols of Royal power and authority, of the aristocracy, as well as of religious faith and protection against evil spirits.
They are also seen as symbols of Latin culture and heritage.
They’re also viewed as just stylish and classy fashion accessories.
More working-class Latina and African American women began to wear hoops in the 1980s. It continues to be a central accessory within these communities. However, the hoop earring is more than an accessory for many of these women but is embedded into their pride and empowerment as women of colour. It’s a symbol of their culture, ancestry and strength.
Recently, there’s been some debate over whether people wearing hoop earrings as a fashion trend is a form of cultural appropriation. However, women and men have worn hoop earrings throughout the centuries, and they remain an important part of cultural identity and tradition.
What makes them so important is that they hold special meaning for each person. Above all, when you wear hoop earrings, you exercise your independence as a woman and make a bold statement. “I am woman, hear me roar”... in my hoop earrings, of course.
Choose Your Hoops In Whatever Color You Like
It used to be that hoop earrings came in only gold or silver, with no other options. If you enjoy the look but want them to match your outfits, you can.
Hoops offer so many unique benefits that other earrings don’t, such as:
Drawing attention to your face.
A classic look that never truly goes out of style.
Something to match any occasion.
If you’re tired of playing it safe and want to get bold, pick up these beautiful earrings in your favourite colours. You’re sure to find one that works for you no matter what looks you gravitate toward.
Big Hoop Earrings For Going Out, Small Hoops For Work
It used to be that hoops were only for going out or having a wild night somewhere. You certainly wouldn’t wear them to work.
Thankfully, those days have passed, and hoops are getting appreciation in just about any setting. The key to wearing hoops at work is to pick the right size, so they are present, but don’t scream for attention when at work or in a professional setting.
Small hoops still highlight your face without drawing a lot of attention. Choosing hoops that match your clothing colour or feature a neutral look goes over well and doesn’t make you feel out of place when wearing them.
If you’re headed out and want to call more attention to your face, wear hoops in whatever size feels best for you. Larger hoops range from a medium that stands out more to oversize, making you the centre of focus.
Consider where you’re going, what the occasion is for, and how easy it is to maneuver around in them. In the end, it’s about what makes you feel your best when you’re enjoying a night on the town.
Today, hoop earrings continue to be a staple in various cultures and a popular fashion accessory. Now that you know their vast history, you’ll be able to flaunt your pair of dazzling hoops proudly as a symbol of your independence. While they’re mostly worn as a fashion accessory, hoop earrings remain a very important part of the cultural tradition and identity.