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Hoop Culture: These Go-To Earrings’ Roots in Black and Latinx Cultures

Updated: Feb 18, 2023

By Kendra Stiers

saltnpepaofficial / Instagram

Hoops have been a classic staple in the wardrobes of every gender for centuries. Today, we know that they can be worn for almost every occasion. Dressed up or down, gold or silver– they go with everything and can be worn by everyone. So let’s explore their history and the significance that they hold for Black and Latinx women in particular.

Pair of hoop earrings from the Mesopotamian region, circa 2600-2500 B.C.

The first pair of hoop earrings found by archeologists are from the Mesopotamian region, dated back to 2500 B.C.. Back then, hoop earrings and earrings in general were worn to show status, identify oneself as part of a particular tribe or just to dress up. Ancient hoops have been found across the African continent, most being made of gold, but sometimes made of silver and bronze.

Over the next few centuries in Europe, earrings went in and out of style along with hairstyles and collars that made them impractical. However, they remained culturally significant in many African, South and Central American, and Asian cultures. Often, it was a rite of passage for a young girl to begin wearing hoop earrings. They would be passed down as heirlooms, giving the accessory a unique element of ancestral reverence.

Flickr / Pinterest

By the 1920s, the popularity of the bobbed haircut meant that earrings were worn almost universally, but hoops weren’t quite in style yet. Because they were being worn by Black and Latinx women in America, they were seen as primitive and tacky, an opinion rooted in racism.

Mejuri / Pinterest

The revival of hoop earrings came with the hip hop era of the 1980s and 90s, during which Black women set many of the streetwear trends. For these women, wearing hoop earrings was an act of resistance, asserting their culture not as “savage” but as vital and even cool. These confident attitudes sought to dismantle the idea that women of color needed to conform to white fashion styles in order to be accepted.

With their rise in popularity, Black and Brown women wore their hoops more often, though they weren’t the only ones. Trans and nonbinary femmes as well as queer men and mascs of color wore them as an assertion of femininity as well as an act of rebellion against the dominant white, heteronormative culture.

Soon, white people also began wearing them while still holding problematic views and committing acts of racism against women of color. This is the very definition of cultural appropriation. And unfortunately, it’s not an idea that we left in the last century.

During Black History month, but also every day, we should celebrate women of color who wear their hoops as an expression of joy and culture. And white people who choose to style with hoops should be working to educate themselves on the history of discrimination and racism in fashion and unlearning their own prejudices.

So go out and wear your hoops with pride! Whether you wear them as the final touch on a show-stopping outfit or as the main attraction that you plan a whole outfit around, they’re an excellent accessory with powerful roots.

Additional Resources

For more thoughts from women of color on the cultural significance of hoop earrings, check out these pieces by Gabriela Garcia, Bianca Nieves and Tanisha Ford.

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