Although they add a finishing touch to any look, their cultural history – Angela Davis to Alexandria Ocasio Cortez – is complex and should be recognized.
The 20th century was ruled by pearls. Jackie Kennedy called them “always appropriate.” Diana Vreeland once sent a memo to her staff asking for more pictures of them in Vogue. She stated that “Nothing gives you the luxury of pearls.” Oscar Wilde said they made one “look so plain, so good and so intellectual”. Anna Wintour, returning from a White House lunch where she, the then first lady Hillary Clinton and a visiting Princess Diana had all been wearing them, remarked that “you just can’t go wrong”.
You can easily swap pearls for hoops in gold to achieve the same universal style. These are the perfect finishing touch for any occasion, day or night. They can be discreet enough to wear in the office but still have a party-ready attitude. You will never look sloppy or unkempt when wearing gold hoops.
Vogue is full of gold hoops, which are just as common as string after string of pearls. Adele paired her gold hoops with a dramatic Hollywood blowdry and a white feather jacket in the November UK issue. Supermodel-of-the-moment Paloma Elsesser wears hers with slicked-back hair and a Dolce & Gabbana bustier. Hailey Bieber (nee Baldwin) is seldom seen without a pair of saucers.
Who are gold hoops? Gold hoops were once considered “urban” or downtown glamour before they became mainstream. How close is cultural appropriation to a landgrab of the golden hoop by a population already rich in pearl necklaces or diamond studs?
When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was sworn into Congress in 2019 wearing a white trousersuit, red lipstick and gold hoops, she tweeted that her look was inspired by the progressive and Bronx-born US supreme court justice Sonia Sotomayor – who, when she was sworn in as the first Latina justice in American history, was advised to wear neutral-coloured nail polish to avoid scrutiny: “Next time someone tells Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they’re dressing like a congresswoman.”
Frances Sola Santiago, a Puerto Rican fashion writer based in New York, said that the look was “a radical action”, celebrating hoops and Latina womanhood as “a cultural touchstone”.
Marc Jacobs wore a collection that was inspired by New York’s early hip-hop, with hoops as big as a cola bottle in 2017. He described them to be “an acknowledgment of, and gesture for my respect for”, the fashion sense and care given to fashion by a generation that will always be the basis of street style youth culture.
While we’ve moved on from the days when Carrie Bradshaw wore “ghetto” gold for fun, high-street jewellery shops don’t often include footnotes honoring their influences. Many believe the rich history of an adornment that threads back from Angela Davis to Nina Simone, to Frida Kahlo to Nefertiti, risks being flattened through overexposure. When Coco Chanel popularised strings of costume pearls, she prised apart the decorative merit of jewellery from its monetary value – and paved the way for gold hoops as a fashion accessory. Jewellery cannot be separated from wealth or status, as every pearl-clutching debutante knows. A modern finishing touch is a gold hoop. It is much more.