Last week, an image went viral. It was simple: just a picture a girl, Katie Rosebrook, had taken of herself as she took a current fashion craze to its logical extreme. She had taken a shoelace and turned it into … a choker.
The image proved popular in part because chokers are having, as Rosebrook suggested, a(nother) moment right now. The simple adornment—a slim strip, usually composed of metal or fabric, that wraps around the neck, evoking both delicacy and boldness—has recently graced the necks of Willow Smith, and Kendall Jenner, and Taylor Swift, and Gigi Hadid, and Katy Perry. Chokers have walked down the runways for Balenciaga and Dior and Saint Laurent and Alexander Wang. Poppy Delevingne wore one to this year’s Met Ball. Olivia Wilde wore one to the Oscars. Beyoncé wore a stack of them in “Formation.” You can buy the most common version of the moment—a ’90s-tastic stretch-plastic situation that resembles a tattoo—at Forever 21 for $2.90.
The choker is, on the one hand, simply one more way that the current culture has been looking back nostalgically to the ’90s. But they evoke much more than ’90s grunge: Chokers were common across ancient cultures, and cycled in and out of style during the most recent centuries in the West—prized for their ability both to conceal the neck and to highlight it. Today they most readily suggest the romantic (and the Romantic). But they also carry a note, visually slicing as they do across the most vulnerable part of the human body, of violence. And, with it, control. As this year’s New York Fashion Week blog put it, commenting on the sudden ubiquity of the simple necklace, a choker is a “beautiful warning sign that you’re dealing with feminine ferocity.”