Hoop Earrings

Large stainless steel hoops from Amazon
Hoops are probably one of the oldest style of earrings in the world, having been worn by both men and women in a variety of cultures throughout human history from diverse locations- including Ancient Sumeria, Egypt, Spain, the Middle East and among African tribes people. Later, small but chunky gold hoops had been popularly worn by European sailors for generations - custom dictated that the earrings were a kind of insurance payment, in exchange for a decent burial for the sailors who wore them.

Abyssian girl in decorative hoops. 1883
However, the classic large hooped, silver or gold earrings were not universally popular in Western culture until the  20th century, when they took on a sexy, exotic hue and became suddenly fashionable. Biggish hoops, both plain and decorative made an appearance in the 1920s, due to that era's penchant for both exotic influences and costume jewellery, however they weren't yet mainstream.

In the 30s and 40s, smaller style earrings had been in vogue. From the 50s on however, hoop earrings became firmly established as a jewellery standard. In the mid 20th century, hoops were often paired with gypsy blouses and full skirts or high, triangle collars and short hair. Around this time, the fashion influence of African-American culture was also beginning to assert itself - turbans worn with hoops were popular, as were polka dots and brightly coloured scarves tied around the head.

Audrey Hepburn wearing tasteful hoops for the 1954 film,  Sabrina

Ear piercing, which had long been out of favour,  began to regain popularity in this decade, partly spurred on by a young Queen Elizabeth, who had her ears pierced in 1947, in order to wear some particularly beautiful diamond earrings she received as a gift.