What is the cultural significance of hoop earrings?

Hoop earrings are daring and represent powerful individual style. If you are a fan of earrings, I’m sure you are also not untouched by the enigma of hoop earrings though at times you might need to muster a certain degree of courage to ornate yourself with hoops.

Hoop earrings are one of the oldest forms of accessories that are still around. Though the modern avatars of hoops have evolved with time, the history that these ubiquitous pieces of jewelry carry is phenomenal.

Hoops appear in many cultures, each having its own lineage to the past. Today we are going to explore the cultural significance of these jewels.

What do Hoop Earrings Convey?

Hoops have conveyed a variety of meanings throughout their history in various cultures around the world.

Hoops in ancient civilizations

In Ancient Egypt, hoop earrings conveyed power and high social status. This idea is bolstered by the discovery of the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen in 1922, which brought to limelight the gold hoops earrings of his time. 

Made of solid gold, heavy hoop earrings were mostly worn by the rich and aristocrats. Whereas hoop earrings made of twisted gold wire and beads were worn by ordinary citizens. This was around 1500 BC.

hoops earrings in a collage

In the ancient Roman and Greek civilization also hoop earrings were popular primarily among women, though men at the helm of political power also favored wearing solid gold rings on their ears.  Some Persian carvings of that time also represent soldiers wearing single hoops.

Perhaps the oldest record of hoop earrings is found around 2500 BC in the ancient civilization of Nubia which was present in the modern day Sudan. In many African tribes we find the prevalence of hoops not just for ears but also for nose and lips! 

Hoop earrings in the pre-modern times

Hoops were not that much popular in 17th and 18th century Europe. One of the reasons could be attributed to the effect of the industrial revolution which gave rise to a new perspective of fashion as well. More focus was given on hair styles & clothing and smaller ear-wear became more popular.

smaller hoops earrings

The trend took a slight shift in the early 19th century when smaller and lighter hoops gained prominence.

At the same time when this was a fashion trend in Europe, in Latin America girls were wearing hoop earrings to assert their individuality. However, there was also a belief prevalent that hoops are meant for weekends because the general mood is light then. But in order to be taken seriously girls thought that they needed to keep aside their hoop earrings. 

Hoops earrings in the modern times

In the early part of the 20th century, fashion (particularly in America) was dominated by clean short hair-dos and drop-shoulder dresses. Hoops earrings matched perfectly well with such appearance, filling the empty spaces and providing the much needed ‘oomph’ factor.  Jagged shapes, chrome hoops and silver hoops were all that came into existence during the mid-twentieth century.

Cher & Diana Ross wearing hoops earrings

Today you’ll find hoop earrings in quite a lot of versatile styles. Most modern women favor lightweight hoop earrings, though in the 1970s you would have found a large following for hoop earrings with intricate designs thanks to the celebrities such as Cher and Diana Ross who wore such bold jewelry unapologetically. 

Whether you flash an ear-to-ear smile or not, hoops are certainly going to keep your entire face in focus. From ancient civilizations to modern human settlements, hoop earrings have always represented individuality, beauty, power, the eternality of life and much more across cultures. Which one of these meanings do you resonate with?


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