From Vivienne Westwood's buckled and spiked leather collars to the synthetic, tattoo-inspired version of the 1990s, the choker necklace has wrapped itself around the necks of everyone from British kinksters to middle schoolers with gift cards to Claire's. In fact, it's believed the submissive accessory first adorned the neck of infamous adulterer (and accused witch and incestophile) Anne Boleyn, whose life was ended where she would've worn her tight strand of pearls, dating the accessory to the 16th century.
If lucky, an accessory's trendiness undulates, shifting between being cool in one decade and coming back a few later, worn as a vintage ode to an era bygone. For the choker, this up-and-down popularity has continued for centuries, and today, it's back in full swing.
Much of the choker's recent comeback can be linked to the resurgence of 90s trends. Among the en vogue items are Levi's high-waisted mom jeans, overalls and jumpers, and the "90s tongue," all from the decade that gave us Twin Peaks, the Riot Grrrl movement, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. As the choker trend seems to be most popular among 20- and early 30-somethings today, the majority of its followers likely wore them in the 90s, too.
As with most fashion trends, the necklace's increase in popularity started on the runways, which it's dominated for the past few seasons: Dior's Spring 2016 Ready-to-Wear collection gave chokers a romantic twist by pairing them with delicate, bound scarves, and Alexander Wang's Fall 2016 Ready-to-Wear collection featured buckled leather versions. But it wasn't until this past spring that Emma Grady, a NYC-based style expert, started seeing the everyday plebe wrapping fabrics and tightly cinching chains around their neck. She links the rise in popularity to beloved style inspirations: celebrities.
"I started noticing chokers earlier this year on Kim Kardashian, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner," she says, "and, soon after, on people in the streets of New York City. I think the choker trend grew so quickly because it is an easy way to add a 90s spin to any outfit."
Jessica Tse, an accessory expert at trend forecasting agency Fashion Snoops, pins much of the necklace's cool-factor on one celebrity in particular: Rihanna. After she wore Fallon's Monarch Choker earlier this year, the $375 accessory sold out immediately. (The Monarch is also a favorite of Khloe Kardashian).
It's not just a 90s trend anymore.
However, what may keep chokers alive and well is actually their detachment from the 90s. Tse says that while they surged in popularity this past year with "it-girl" celebrities and models, the accessory is slowly shedding its association with the "90s cool girl" look. "The choker has become a central, key item," she says. "It's not just a 90s trend anymore."
"The choker has taken on so many shapes because there are so many ways to recreate it," she adds, noting that when you see a woman wearing a delicate ribbon choker, you'd likely think of Victorian-era fashion. "They [can be] metal, embellished, even romantic." Therefore, Tse believes chokers will stick around if they continue to disassociate themselves the decade and instead become a distinct piece of jewelry. It's possible this evolution is already taking place; while RiRi's leather Monarch choker is edgy-cool, Dior's Spring 2016 could easily accompany a headband and pair of Jelly shoes—they're both chokers, but that's about all they share in common.
Now it's just time for belly button rings to make their way back.