The Cultural Significance Of The Bamboo Earring

Hip-hop culture has changed in both subtle and dramatic ways since it began as an underground cultural movement in urban New York during the 1970s. But despite all the changes, two things have stayed the same – the historical and cultural importance of the music genre and the jewelry/accessories associated with it. For example, the iconic gold door-knocker earrings also known as bamboo earrings.

What are bamboo earrings, you ask? They are a type of hoop earring whose design mimics the segmented stems of a bamboo plant, but they aren’t made from actual bamboo. Once viewed as ‘Ghetto Fabulous’, these earrings have become a mainstream fashion statement. They were prominently featured in rap and hip-hop music during the 1990s and early 2000s but have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years.

What Do Bamboo Earrings Symbolize?

The hip-hop movement is synonymous with bold, eye-catching accessories that act as both social and fashion statements. Among the various accessories tied to hip-hop culture, bamboo earrings stand out as one of the most striking and recognizable from the 1990s. They are a perfect example of the connection between hip-hop and jewelry, making it easy to understand their significance.

Door-knockers are sassy and chic; a bold accessory that can command the attention of an entire room. It’s no wonder they’ve started making a comeback. Not only this, but bamboo hoop earrings hold special significance for people of color – often symbolizing a rags-to-riches narrative. Like bamboo shoots that grow tall and bend gracefully in the wind, they represent flexibility and resilience.

The History of Bamboo Hoop Earrings

As mentioned, bamboo hoops get their name from their hollow design and shape that features plant-like segments. They’re also classed under a style of huge earrings called ‘door-knockers’. These come in a multitude of styles and shapes, from hearts, triangles, and trapezoids to quirky animal-inspired motifs. Some even feature gemstones or custom name plating.

But this accessory has existed for far longer than most people realize. The oldest pair of hoop earrings found by archeologists were worn by Sumerian women between 2,600 and 2,500 B.C. The ancient Egyptians also wore hoop earrings as a means to enhance their beauty and sexuality. Gold hoops were very popular among Egyptian royalty, including pharaohs and queens like Tutankhamun, Cleopatra, Hatshepsut, and Nefertiti. As far as archaeologists can tell, these served no other purpose other than to reflect the wearer’s personal style.

In the 1960s and 1970s, African American icons like Angela Davis and Nina Simone started wearing hoops, giving the earrings cultural currency. They were further cemented into mainstream fashion, especially within black and brown communities, with the emergence of hip-hop culture in the 1980s and 1990s when black female artists like Roxanne Shanté, MC Lyte, and hip-hop trio Salt-N-Pepa started rocking bamboo earrings in everything from photoshoots and music videos to red carpet events. LL Cool J also added his stamp of approval in his song ‘Around the Way Girl’.

Since then, the bamboo earring has become a fashion staple that is synonymous with both African beauty and the hip-hop movement.

Bamboo Earrings Today: A Timeless Accessory

Bamboo hoops still carry the same cultural significance today as they did in the 1990s, despite claims of cultural appropriation. They have experienced several waves of popularity throughout the years and have even been featured on fashion runways worldwide. Artists like Beyoncé and Rihanna also help keep the trend alive by still wearing this eye-catching style from time to time.

So, while bamboo hoops and door knockers have their roots in hip-hop culture, they are a timeless accessory that will add flair to any outfit.


Which culture do earrings originate from?

Earrings and other ear jewelry are believed to have originated in Mesopotamia, though they have been worn by many ancient civilizations across the globe.

Where do bamboo earrings come from?

Historically, hoop earrings were worn by both men and women in ancient Egypt and other parts of Africa. Since then, there have been many different iterations of the hoop earring, with bamboo hoops being just one of them. Thus, we cannot say for certain where bamboo earrings originated. However, we do know that the modern bamboo hoop has its roots in the hip-hop and rap culture of the 1980s and 1990s.

Who started the bamboo earring trend?

Bamboo earrings were popularized by rap and hip-hop artists like MC Lyte and Roxanne Shanté during the 1980s and 1990s.

Are bamboo earrings 80s or 90s?

Also known as door-knockers, bamboo hoop earrings have been around since the late 1980s and featured prominently in the fashion of the 1990s and early 2000s. These earrings aren’t made of actual bamboo, although their design resembles the texture of bamboo shoots. While gold is by far the most common choice of metal for these earrings, you can also find them in silver.


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