The Long (and Short) History of the Choker
Last week, an image went viral. It was simple: just a picture a girl, Katie Rosebrook, had taken of herself as she took a current fashion craze to its logical extreme. She had taken a shoelace and turned it into … a choker.
And it would continue trickling! Chokers were trendy into the 1920s—think Lady Mary in Downton Abbey—and would make a comeback again in the ‘40s, as women in the U.S., in particular, began experimenting with “colliers de chien.” (An issue of Life magazine, in October 1944, announced that young girls had been reviving “a dowager fashion of 40 years ago”—and illustrated the trend with photos of models proudly wearing the now vaguely rebellious “dog collars.”) Chokers would be revived again, this time often by men, in the ‘70s—one element of the experiments with gender-bending that Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, and Elvis engaged in—and again in the ‘90s, when the necklaces favored by Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani would also be worn by Prince, Lenny Kravitz, and Jordan Catalano.
And so, now, chokers are in style again, gracing the necks of the women (and occasionally the men) who are American culture’s readiest answer to royalty. “Like hemlines, necklace lengths go up and down,” Sophie Quy, Net-a-Porter.com’s fine jewelry buyer, noted of the choker’s inevitable return. But the style—that enticing blend of delicacy and danger, of control and its absence—makes particular sense for a moment in which women are finding new ways to be powerful. And one that finds many things coming, as they so often will, full-circle.