Earrings naturally are a piece of jewelry that we wear to beautify our faces. The shape of the earring would be dependent on your preference and the intended look you want to pull.
For this reason, earrings come in different shapes and sizes. Hoop earrings are those that come in the form of a circular band made of metal or any other material designed.
Lately, Hoop earrings have been considered cultural appropriation, basing on the history of those who wore them, particularly “women of color.” This article will dive deep into understanding whether hoop earrings are cultural appropriation or otherwise.
Jewelry cultural appropriation definition
Cultural appropriation is defined as the unwelcome and inappropriate adoption of one or more elements of a people’s culture by a completely different set of people who do not subscribe to the said culture.
Jewelry cultural appropriation therefore would mean purchasing and donning a piece(s) of jewelry that hold a certain level of cultural significance but using them as fashion.
This becomes a cultural appropriation when the original group of people subscribing to the said culture is offended by the use of their heritage as fashion and or in an unintended use.
In jewelry cultural appropriation, there are exceptions to whether the use of the elements holding a certain cultural significance is cultural appropriation or not.
When used solely to look good and no scope of the jewelry is misunderstood or misinterpreted, it does not qualify as cultural appropriation.
What cultures wear hoop earrings?
In ancient history, almost all human societies wore hoop earrings. Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, African tribes, several East Asian cultures, and Mesoamericans.
In all these ancient cultures and societies, hoop earrings symbolized beauty as an important aspect of their tradition. In other cases, it was a symbol of social status.
It is important to note that wearing hoop earrings in the ancient culture was tied to so many diverse meanings and was not restricted to specifics.
In some cases, like in the black American community, these earrings symbolized their struggle and dignity in becoming the people who mattered.
To this day, hoop earrings have evolved so much, and different cultures now have customized hoop earrings to fit their reasons for wearing them.
Most commonly in this age, hoop earrings have become a fashion tool more than a representation of heritage and culture.
Below are some cultures that wear hoop earrings and why they do so.
1. Black American Women:Most black women wear hoop earrings as a show of significance, dignity, and loyalty to what they believe is a struggle to be free in a white-dominated world. They consider themselves a minority. A few of them wear earrings as a show of beauty.
2. White women and models across the globe: Not being left behind, white women all over the world, especially models rock hoop earrings for fashion and red carpet events. Most modern white designers have been seeing imitating the black culture and improving it into even a better sense of fashion, including hoop earrings and up-done hair.
3. Ancient and current Egyptians: Both Egyptian men and women wore hoop earrings to enhance their beauty and in some cases as a show of wealth and power. The earrings were made from twisted gold wire and beads. It was common with the Royals. This still happens in the present age with communities that have preserved this heritage among the Egyptians.
Hoop Earrings Criticized As Cultural Appropriation
Considering the cultural significance of hoop earrings to women of color, treating the jewelry as everyone’s fashion trend today may be considered cultural appropriation.
That’s according to Ruby Pivet. Most women, like Pivet, who are so attached to the cultural significance of hoop earrings, are often unnerved when they see women not from their culture don these earrings.
This is birthed from the belief about the struggle and fight that the people of color went through to gain significance in a society dominated by individuals who lived freely for being white.
What fuels the criticism, even more, is the fact that the initiators and owners of the culture are not acknowledged with the same praise the white woman gets when they let hoop earrings dangle from their ear lobes.
Pivet says that hoop earrings are a symbol of resistance, strength, and identity. According to her, however, more often, when the minority is seen wearing these earrings, it automatically causes unnecessary commotion with the assumption that they may be leading a protest or involved in a movement that may disrupt peace.
Slowly losing the genesis of the hoop earrings culture, they have in recent times been considered a fashion sense rather than a traditional attire with a story behind it.
The issue that Pivet has with this is the fact that the white woman did not invent the oversized round earrings, but they are the ones who seem to get the most praise for rocking the pieces of what is considered an “edgy” style of fashion.
Ruby recalls how Vogue magazine announced that doing gold hoops and an up-do was a must-try summer fashion attire. Even worse, they credited the choice to many white models. This validates some of Ruby’s thoughts on hoop earrings as cultural appropriation.
Ruby Pivet is not the only one who feels that hoop earrings as a fashionable trend are cultural appropriation. There has been a record of other like-minded individuals who think that white women should not embrace hoop earrings as part of who they are.
Pivet believes that it won’t take too long before their Latinx culture grows stale and hoops replaced by a piece of alternative jewelry without considering its significance to the ancient black community.
Are hoop earrings cultural appropriation? Why?
Having been transformed into a fashion sense without consideration of its significance, hoop earrings are a cultural appropriation. However, this may not sit well with most individuals who suggest that the definition of hoop earrings could be subjective.
On the flip side though, it is important to respect a people’s culture and the significance for which they initiated a practice. This has however not been the case as those accused of cultural appropriation have always been ready to defend their reasons for doing so.
Recently, there’s been a case with one of the top fashion designers; Kylie Jenner who has supposedly been appropriating black fashion for abnormal profits.
Not much goes into creating the designs as she just spots a black trend and instantly takes them to sell for profit.
From this case, most people would argue that if your goal for adopting a black trend for instance the hoop earrings is just to look good and not misuse its intended purpose, then that is just fine.
Which really. The problem lies in the initiation of the trend that you are adopting, like Kylie Jenner’s appropriation.
Are small hoop earrings cultural appropriation?
Hoop earrings in a black people’s culture included specific earring sizes. The appropriation of these earrings would then mean abusing their original essence in the original size.
Every other evolution or mimicry of the hoop earrings would not qualify as cultural appropriation. Small hoop earrings are not cultural appropriation.
Hoop earrings are cultural appropriation. Judging by the reason for which the hoop earrings were worn by women of the black community, donning them in today’s world without respecting the original intention is inappropriate and unwelcome.
As much as you may be doing it for style and to match the trends, let it hold the original essence as a statement of confidence, strength, and diversity.
The same level of praise that other cultures get for wearing hoop earrings should be replicated for the initiators of the jewelry.
That is one of the many ways of respecting the history and diversity of a group of people.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.