Pthe earls ruled in the 20th century. Jackie Kennedy described them as “always appropriate”. Diana Vreeland once sent a memo to staff demanding to see more on the pages of Vogue: “Nothing gives the luxury of pearls,” she insisted. Oscar Wilde said they made it “so simple, so good and so intellectual”. Anna Wintour, returning from a lunch at the White House where she, then First Lady Hillary Clinton and a visiting Princess Diana all wore them, remarked that “you can’t go wrong.”
For the same universal style applause to apply now, all you need to do is swap pearls for gold hoops. They are the understated finishing touch suitable for anyone, anywhere, any time of day or night. They’re low key enough for the office, but have a party demeanor if needed. With gold hoops, you are never overdressed or underdressed.
Flip through Vogue now and gold hoops are as ubiquitous as pearl necklaces once were. In the UK November issue, Adele pairs golden hoops with a dramatic Hollywood brushing and a coat of white feathers; Current supermodel Paloma Elsesser wears hers with slicked back hair and a Dolce & Gabbana bustier. Hailey Bieber, née Baldwin, is rarely seen without a pair the size of saucers.
But who owns the gold hoops? Before becoming mainstream, Gold Hoops were categorized as “urban” or “downtown” glamor, with all of the uncomfortable racial undertones those labels entail. So how close does the grabbing of the golden hoop by a population already rich in pearl necklaces and diamond studs come to cultural appropriation?
When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was sworn in to Congress in 2019 wearing a white pantsuit, red lipstick and gold hoops, she tweeted that her look was inspired by the Supreme Court judge of the United States, progressive and Bronx-born Sonia Sotomayor – who, when she was sworn in as the first Latin American judge in U.S. history, was advised to wear nail polish neutral colored nails to avoid scrutiny: “The next time someone tells the girls in the Bronx to take off their hoops, they can just say they’re dressing like a congressman. “
Frances Solá-Santiago, a New York-based Puerto Rican fashion writer, wrote that the look was “a radical act”, celebrating the hoops as a “cultural touchstone” of Latina femininity.
When Marc Jacobs accessorized a collection inspired by early New York hip-hop with hoops the diameter of a cola can in 2017, he described them as “an acknowledgment and a gesture of my respect for polish and consideration applied to the fashion of a generation that will forever be the foundation of the street style culture of young people.
But as we moved on from the days when Carrie Bradshaw wore “ghetto gold for fun”, high street jewelry displays usually don’t have footnotes honoring their influences. Many believe that the rich history of an adornment stretching back from Angela Davis to Nina Simone, from Frida Kahlo to Nefertiti, risks being flattened by overexposure.
When Coco Chanel popularized fancy pearl necklaces, she distinguished the decorative merit of jewelry from its monetary value – and paved the way for gold hoops as a fashion accessory. But jewelry can never be divorced from wealth or status – as any pearl beginner knew. A gold hoop just might be the perfect modern finishing touch. But it is also much more.