Are Hoop Earrings Cultural Appropriation?

Large hoop earrings are rooted in Latina and Black culture and recently wearing them has been considered cultural appropriation. This is a subjective issue with varying opinions. Wearing smaller hoop earrings may help you avoid accusations of cultural appropriation. 

At one point in recent history, it was almost exclusively women of color wearing large hoop earrings, but throughout the 90s, and more recently as well, large hoops have made their way into the mainstream. This type of spread of fashions from a minority culture to the majority culture often leads to accusations of cultural appropriation.

Are Hoop Earrings Cultural Appropriation?

The issue of whether hoop earrings are cultural appropriation is nuanced and can sometimes be confusing.

Since hoops have been such a staple in fashion for so long, it’s easy to just write them off as any other piece of jewelry, but some hoop earrings may be considered cultural appropriation due to their origins in Black and Latina cultures. 

For Black and Latina women, hoop earrings represent beauty practices that have been passed down through the years.

In the parts of cities where more women of color tended to live, things like large gold or bamboo hoop earrings and bold lipsticks were a way to show your identity to the world in a proud and beautiful way.

In the 80s and 90s, these looks were considered “trashy” to mainstream fashion enthusiasts, but to the women who wore them, they were a badge of honor. 

So, when women who were not people of colorbegan to wear them, it was seen as the appropriation of other cultures’ fashion.

Most of the complaints about cultural appropriation are related to larger hoop earring.

Everything from huge gold loops to chunky beaded earrings can be considered inappropriate on some people, but smaller hoops are generally considered perfectly fine for everyone to wear.

These more demure earrings don’t pack the same punch and aren’t as noticeable as big, dangling hoops, so there is very little cultural significance connected to small hoop earrings.

Related Article: Are Bandanas Cultural Appropriation?

Cultural Significance of Hoop Earrings

Because of the rich history associated with hoop earrings, they have come to represent things like beauty, power, and independence to many women of color.

Getting your first pair of hoop earrings is seen as a sort of coming of age gift, and they can be seen on the ears of people both young and old. 

Hoop earrings also are a symbol of identity for women in certain cultures. These types of earrings have been worn for hundreds upon hundreds of years, but it’s only recently that they have been worn by people from every walk of life.

For those that view hoops as identity markers, they are seen as a way to show pride in where you grew up, and the culture you were brought up in.

This is why so many Black and Latina women have memories of wearing hoop earrings just like their mothers and grandmothers. When people who don’t carry the same history of beauty practices like hoop earrings but continue to wear them, it becomes cultural appropriation. 

Related Article: Is Henna Cultural Appropriation?

Origins of Large Hoop Earrings

Hoop earrings didn’t originate in American neighborhoods, even if they hold cultural significance for a lot of people that live there now. Instead, hoop earrings were first worn in Africa, during the fourth century. 

The first record of hoop earrings comes from these ancient Africans, found in an area now known as Sudan, that used to be called Nubia. But it was really Ancient Egypt that hoop earrings first gained their immense popularity. 

In Ancient Egypt, both men and women would wear hoop earrings from time to time. Some researchers suggest there might be a deeper meaning behind the choice of hoop earrings, while others believe they were just fashion statements. 

Greek and Roman art also depicts women and men wearing hoop earrings. Women wore them more often than men, but there are numerous depictions of warriors wearing a single hoop earring on the way into battle. 

Most famously, Cleopatra herself was a big fan of hoop earrings, and her fondness for them might have helped carry the style into the future. 

Cultures With Hoop Earrings

Below are some of the cultures that have a history of wearing hoop earrings, especially large hoop earrings.

Since hoop earrings have such a long and storied history, and have been worn by people throughout the world for thousands of years, it’s impossible to list every culture associated with these earrings, so these will be only the most significant. 

Cultures associated with hoop earrings:

  • Current day Latina women, Black women, or other people of color
  • Ancient Egyptians
  • Ancient Greeks 
  • Ancient Romans

Conclusion

Wearing hoop earrings isn’t always cultural appropriation, but there is some risk that wearing them may be seen as cultural appropriation.

Large statement-making hoop earrings are a staple that Latina and Black women that have worn since the 80s and 90s as a beauty practice that has been passed down and as a way to show pride for their history and the places they live.

In the past, hoop earrings have been worn to represent everything from beauty to power, but today we have to be careful wearing oversized hoops. If you want to wear hoop earrings, small hoops aren’t problematic, and as long as you treat this jewelry with respect, hoop earrings can still remain in your beauty repertoire.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

4 thoughts on “Are Hoop Earrings Cultural Appropriation?”

  1. History Enthusiast and Hoop Wearer

    This is reaching at best, and utterly stupid at worst. Whose culture is being appropriated when you’ve listed multiple ancient civilisations that can trace hoop earrings back to their roots?
    Where does it end? Is everything not cultural appropriation then? Who do you shift the blame to? Who gets credit for the style originally? One would argue that modern day women and men who choose to wear hoop earrings are giving a nod to such civilisations’ style and culture, not appropriating it.
    For the love, stop writing such nonsense.

    1. The irony is, my article pretty much said it isn’t really cultural appropriation but some people might claim it is so be aware that you might be accused. And yet, you are so triggered by culture wars that you aren’t interested in reading it objectively.

      1. History Enthusiast and Hoop Wearer

        Triggered is entirely the wrong word. I have no interest in “culture wars,” merely hoop earrings. Perhaps you didn’t read my comment objectively either.

        I can agree with other articles you’ve written about similar topics such as cornrows or even henna designs, etc. These are acknowledged world over as things that may be considered appropriation. I’ve seen it happen, and can understand the position of these cultures in which these styles have originated. Do not misunderstand, I do find value in your comments about such things, as these articles can be a valid educational tool for those who may have been unaware.

        However, as someone who is mixed race, and has travelled all over the world wearing hoop earrings, (quite recently to Egypt, and who has spent time in Nubian villages and is lucky enough to include Nubian people amongst their friends), this just seemed like a stretch, despite either standpoint you may have taken. Not once have I, nor anyone else I know or anyone in a similar position, been accused of appropriating any culture by wearing them, hence my statement this article was reaching. This is the only time I’ve come across someone throwing hoop earrings into the mix.

        While you may claim your view was ‘that you do not agree, yet it may be considered to be by others,’ you’ve gone to such efforts to write such a lengthy piece about it. Perhaps I just do not understand from where the need arose.

        1. Appreciate your detailed response this time and I understand your perspective a little more.

          I write articles based on requests from readers.

          Further, if you were to search this question on Google, 6 of the top 10 results are claiming they ARE cultural appropriation, so my perspective is intended to mediate a lot of the information out there (and all these claims I found during my research is why when writing it I said “be careful – people are making these accusations”).

          I’ll leave this comment for other readers as I think they might appreciate your perspective as well. All the best!

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