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The Choker: Everyone’s Favourite Cut Throat Accessory

Everyone’s favourite accessory at the moment is the choker necklace, whether it’s a shoelace tastefully wrapped around your neck a few times or a neat velvet ribbon- anyone who’s anyone is sporting one. It’s the most ubiquitous accessory of the year; but where did the choker necklace come from?

(Photo Credit: yournextjewlry)

The simple yet chic accessory dates as far back as Ancient Egypt, but it wasn’t always used solely as a fashion statement. The likes of Cleopatra wore jewellery for security, as a type of armour, with the choker in particular holding protective and amuletic properties. The choker was an ultimate statement of power, with many believing the wearer would be infused with magical powers and good omen. Heavy gold chokers in particular (Topshop have some great ones in store at the moment), were associated with the power of the sun and those embellished with lapis (a bright blue stone) were thought to evoke the life-giving powers of the River Nile.

(Photo Credit: neclacesandpendantsideas)

Moving to the 16th century, the choker appears between the clavicles of another famous lady, Anne Boleyn. Her most renowned official portrait sees her neck wrapped in a string of pearls bejewelled with a golden “B”, a killer fashion statement of power and wealth. Unfortunately, Anne was never able to witness the revival of the choker she loved so much, being choked herself by the executioner’s axe and beheaded for her alleged adultery right where the iconic piece of jewellery hung about her neck. Funnily enough, years later in her cover of Nirvana’s “Old Age”, Courtney Love sang “Someone please tell Anne Boleyn, chokers are back in again”: you can purchase one just like Anne’s here!

(Photo Credit: Hever Castle)

Sticking to the (literal) cut throat nature of the trend, a couple of centuries later leads to perhaps the most interesting revival of the accessory in 18th century French Revolution. After La Terreur (the Reign of Terror), which saw tens of thousands of anti-revolutionists executed by guillotine, the semi-apocryphal phenomena was born: The Bals des Victimes (The “victims” balls). These parties were held by those mourning the loss of loved ones who died at the hands of the guillotine, with the women allegedly sporting ribbons around their necks as a morbid tribute to the beheaded. Whether this be fact or fiction, Johnny Depp’s, ever so stylish daughter Lily, installed a faux-guillotine at her French Revolution themed 16th birthday party last year, with many of her fashionable friends adopting a multitude of chokers to complete their looks. Uncanny coincidence or a good history lesson? 

The choker has been a fashion statement throughout the ages, popularised by famous women in history then marketed to the masses in the 1990’s. Whatever the outfit (unless you are wearing a turtle neck of course), there is undoubtedly a choker that is perfect; 90’s tattoo style in black and neons, leather with an “O” ring, shoelace and velvet. There is a choker in every style, every designer’s collection and in every shop on the high street, you just have to find the right one!


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