Why The Hoop Earring Continues To Reign Supreme
Hoops can be traced back thousands of years, yet the circular earrings continue to be a jewelry-box staple. How designers are embracing and updating them for fashionable women today
Is it a trend if it never goes away? That’s the koan posed by the hoop earring—a shape that’s been a continual presence in jewelry for thousands of years and yet has buzzily gained prominence over the past few.
One of the earliest known hoops—gold ones that date to circa 2600 BCE—were made in Mesopotamia, in modern day Iraq. Ancient Egyptians of both sexes wore hoops, as did Minoan, Greek,
and Roman women, who liked such heavy styles that they had specialized healers, auricolae ornatrices, to tend to their stretched-out lobes.
The design of the hoop has altered very little since. “All the motifs go back to the ancient world...You will see a pair that are 3,000-years-old and think, ‘They’re so modern,’” said jewelry historian Ruth Peltason.
And the hoop’s prevalence in cultures around the globe, from the Hmong women in Vietnam to the Romani, make it one of the world’s most frequently referenced jewelry forms.
The interest in large, decorative hoops was part of the trend for what was then known as “ethnic” fashion—styles that borrowed from cultures that were described as “exotic” or “colorful.”
This language has, for the most part, been shelved. But our impulse to borrow from other cultures is as old as fashion itself, and it’s not going anywhere.
Objects have no inherent meaning; we “code” them based on cultural beliefs. These codes can be read differently depending on your cultural background,which is why there’s so much misunderstanding about things like hoop earrings.
History is not much help here because it’s a catalog of dubious precedents. Further complicating things is the widespread usage of the hoop.