Accessories complete the perfect look. Sometimes, even when the whole outfit is flawless, a statement accessory can transform it to make it more glamorous. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, belts, neckties, and headwear add finishing touches to many outfits. Some of the types of these accessories are classic and timeless like the pearl earrings and leather belts, but some were trendy and could be out of fashion after a while. As fashion changes throughout the years and decades, accessories evolve as well.
Since the beginning of civilization, people have been wearing accessories. The history of fashion accessories is a lengthy and broad subject, so we will break it down per accessory type.
Necklaces are adopted by early civilizations around the world. These are believed to be as old as 40,000 years. The oldest forms of the necklace are made from shells, teeth or bone beads, bird feathers, carved wood, seeds, stones and other artful natural elements found in the environment. Some used more precious materials from hard-to-find places, like the valuable necklace made of Mediterranean red coral beads found in a Neolithic remains in the Alps, dated around 4,200-3,400 BC.
Materials such as gold, silver, pearls, and diamonds have long been a popular choice for necklaces since the Western history of dressing until today. These often symbolize wealth, glamour, and prestige. Nowadays, the ideal necklace for professional, business and bridal dress are made up of these materials.
Locket necklaces were widely used in the 18th and 19th centuries after photography was developed. It was mostly given as a betrothal gift. Matched sets of jewelry also became popular during this era. These sets usually included at least a matching earring or brooch, but it could also include bracelets, tiara or buckles.
Men and women both used to wear necklaces until the 18th century when this accessory became primarily feminine. This is why men used to call their necklace as chains today. American pop culture re-popularized the use of necklaces for men with the 1960s hippie “love beads” and the 1970s disco dance craze. Some included gold chains with charms like a gold cross or gold Italian horn, and some used amulets, charms and beads. Black and African-American hip-hop artists of the 20th century had platinum and gold chains with diamond-encrusted pendants as their fashion statement, which is popularly known as “bling-bling.”
After the ornaments for the neck, another oldest form of jewelry is the bracelet for wrist, arm or ankle. Archaeologists were able to date back the earliest bracelet to 7,500 BC found in Turkey. It was made of obsidian. Primitive humans were thought to have formed ancient bangles from stones, wood, and shells, then later on, from copper and bronze. The ancient Chinese wore bracelets on wrist made from wood, jade, and gold.
Plastic became a material for bracelets during the 20th century. For teenagers and children, plastic adornments became a fashion choice. Embroidery floss or thread was used to create armbands, especially for friendship bracelets, which became popular in the 1980s. Jewelry makers also started creating charm bracelets made of gold-plated brass and sterling silver. This trend continues up to the present.
The Sumerian women wore crescent-shaped gold hoop earrings at around 2,500 BC, according to archaeologists. In 1,500 BC Egypt, earrings were worn by both men and women. Ancient Egyptian earrings were usually mushroom-shaped studs or plugs to be stretched in the earlobe by an enlarged hole.
Over time, different types and styles of earrings emerged. Earrings have become a form of personal expression and plainly a matter of personal choice – not indicative of social status, sexuality, moral or religious standards, and others.
Since the Bronze Age, belts were worn by ancient people. In ancient Rome, Greece, and Crete, people used it in the form of sash or girdle. Belts were common for both genders in the Western world, but it was more common for men.
During the 20th century, men started wearing leather belts with the purpose of preventing the pants from falling. Women’s belts, on the other hand, were often made of the same fabric as their matching dress or coat. Belts of plastic or metal links have also been worn as a trendy fashion accessory.
The earliest known hat was worn by a Bronze Age man named Otzi, a mummified body frozen in a mountain where it was found to be there since around 3,300 BC. This headwear was a bearskin cap that looks like a Russian fur hat without flaps.
In the Western world, the beret hat has been worn by both sexes of all ages since the 1920s. It was adopted as part of the US Girl Scouts’ uniform in 1936 but was replaced with the visor baseball cap in 1994.