Hoop Earrings Are More Than a Trend
Is there anything cooler than an image of Sade rocking an open-back dress and a pair of gold hoop earrings while singing Smooth Operator? OK, maybe it’s her signing The Sweetest Taboo in an orange blazer, 80s jeans, and – you guessed it – hoops! These flashbacks are the first thing that comes to my mind when someone mentions hoop earrings.
Small, medium, large, and certainly oversized, hoops are the ultimate iconic look to beat! But more than a trend, hoop earrings are a lifestyle.
They’re older than the written word. They’ve adorned people across the globe for centuries and have been a dominant symbol in many cultures. Still, they have somewhat ambiguous beginnings. Yet, there’s nothing ambiguous about their power of presence.
BRIEF HISTORY OF HOOP EARRINGS
Where do hoop earrings come from?
There is no pinpointing who was the first to wear hoop earrings according to the Cultural encyclopedia of the body. Some archeologists argue that hoop earrings were first discovered in Nubia around 2500 BCE. Nubia is a region located between Egypt and Sudan along the Nile River. Others say that the first hoops were worn by Sumerian women around the same timeframe. Sumer is the earliest known civilization that lived in Mesopotamia, later known as Babylonia. Today this area stretches among Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Kuwait.
In any case, it’s safe to say that hoops debuted on the territories of Northwest Africa and the Middle East. Since then, they were introduced into many other civilizations, leaving a lasting stamp on their culture.
Hoop earrings and the Egyptian Empire
After their discovery in Nubia, hoop earrings started gaining enormous popularity in neighboring Egypt in 1500 BCE. Egyptian empire worshiped hoops and regarded them as the highest symbol of beauty. During this era hoops were made of thick gold and different types of beads, so they were quite sizable and ornamental.
This is also the time when hoops became the status symbol since royalty wore them as a display of their wealth and power. And by royalty, I mean both queens and kings, making hoops a genderless accessory. Furthermore, it was thanks to the Egyptian empire that hoop earrings crossed into the western world.
Hoop earrings in the western world
In their dealings along the Mediterranean coast and surrounding areas, Egyptians brought hoop earrings to the West; Greece and Rome in particular. In the Greco-Roman culture, it was mainly women who wore hoops. Men of high social status did too at times, but it was rather uncommon since they saw this trend in a man as barbarian and wild.
Hoop Earrings in Romani Culture
Hoop earrings are a big part of Romani culture. Often referred to as “gypsies” in the US or “tzigane” in Europe, Romani people come from the Punjab region of north India. What’s more, some researchers believe that it was precisely in India where the first hoops were spotted; long before than in Nubia and Sumer. Although a less spread opinion, it claims that hoop earrings originated in India around 5000 BCE.
Having this in mind, Romani’s love for hoops is unsurprising. In their community hoop earrings are a powerful symbol of strength and unity. Women adorn themselves with large hoops and men are no strangers to wearing them either. They sometimes wear a single hoop as well.
This could also be why hoop earrings are one of the go-to costume jewelries in Flamenco music. Flamenco is a fusion of several music genres that originated in the Andalusia region of Spain. Known as traditional folkloric music of Spain, it is performed mainly by Romani people. Hoops worn by Flamenco women are incredibly decorative. Dangly and colorful, they have a true power of presence.
Hoop earrings and pirates
If we know one thing about pirates, we know their appearance. Eye patches, tattoos, bandanas, and – of course – hoop earrings! So, why were they so fond of hoops you might ask? It turns out it has to do with funerals.
While tales and legends about pirates’ hoops offer many explanations, the truth is that pirates wore gold hoops to communicate that they have sufficient means for a proper burial in case their body was found washed off on the shores.
HOOP EARRINGS IN THE MODERN AGE
Today, in the western world, and the US particularly, hoop earrings are seen as somewhat of an ethnic accessory, perhaps because they come from distant lands and were worn by immigrants.
The Latin community is very fond of hoop earrings. They are a staple accessory in their culture. Again, this relates to the undeniable power that hoops have and the inner strength they represent. Many celebrities with Latin heritage have been proudly showcasing hoop earrings, most notably Jennifer Lopez and Selena.
Likewise, hoop earrings are an important accessory in the African-American community. There is a certain grace and beauty in women wearing hoops that transcends a schematic visual appeal. Hoops are a statement of boldness and courage and Lauryn Hill, Sade, Diana Ross, and many others have proved it.
Consequently, due to their universal message, numerous other celebrities embraced hoops such as Cher and Madonna.
But hoop earrings are not championed by celebrities alone. They have long been the darlings of all major fashion powerhouses. And how couldn’t they be? Hoops are every fashion designer’s dream. They have all the ingredients of a perfect accessory. They are so multifaceted and can create a pool of different looks.
Furthermore, as we already know, hoops are more than a fashion item, and therefore go far beyond the fashion industry. Men and women of diverse backgrounds from all over the world wear them. And I love to hear what draws them to hoops.
I recently came across an Instagram profile pagesandhoops that interested me very much, initially because of all of the cool books shared on it. But seeing what ardent hoop enthusiast Melissa is, I was curious to know more about this passion of hers. To the question of why she likes hoops, this is what she had to say:
“I grew up in Queens, NY, where hoops were always popular, no matter one’s age or style preference. I’d see them on the teenagers at the mall, on my favorite celebrities in music videos, and on display at my favorite stores. I think I officially fell in love with hoops once I got to high school, and I never outgrew them. I was so shy in high school, but something about wearing a big pair of hoops made me feel unapologetically bold. They still have that power.”
EVOLUTION OF HOOP EARRINGS
Since their humble beginnings, hoop earrings underwent a major transformation. Initially, they were made of simple materials like wire, copper, silver, and gold. Today, they come in any material imaginable including enamel, shell, clay, pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, and many more. They vary in color, size, thickness… They can be perfectly round or slightly uneven, such as creole hoops. They can also be engraved with ancient Indian art of filigree. They range from simplistic, to sophisticated, to edgy. They are at home out on the streets just as much as in courtrooms. In short, hoop earrings can be everyone’s safe choice or a show stopper all the same. Their versatility is unmatched.
MEANING AND SYMBOLISM OF HOOP EARRINGS
Hoop earrings, no matter how simple and, at first sight, unimaginative, are a bit of a mystery nonetheless. They don’t seem to have anything extraordinary at a first glance. But that’s their trick. Or why else would they be the most widespread piece of jewelry ever known to humans? So, where’s the riddle? It starts with their shape.
A circle. Just a circle, you might think. But let’s think about what other things in nature are a circle. Sun, earth, womb… All these things give us life. Circle has no beginning and no end; just like life itself. It is infinite like time. And therefore, all that much more fascinating and powerful. In short, hoops are a representation of life; that infiniteness, wholeness, and invincibility. As Melissa puts it:
“To me, hoops are the ultimate symbol of strength, resilience, and confidence. They have a magical quality to them that makes you feel like you can conquer the world.”
Looking back at hoop earrings, I can say that they are a living proof of the force of inner beauty. They are genderless, classless, ageless. They are for everyone. And their message is universal too. As Melissa states:
“The power of the hoop earrings is its refusal to be ignored. They make a statement and their presence is undeniable. They do not hide behind hair, they do not take the second stage to any outfit, and they demand everyone’s attention. Plus, there is a variation of the hoop that is appropriate for any setting or event – elegant hoops, playful hoops, delicate hoops, flashy hoops…they are timeless”
Until next time,