Ankle bracelet, ankle chain, anklet (whatever you prefer to call them) – a pretty souvenir you tend to see a lot in any hot, tropical or beach destination, often with a boho/gypsy vibe to them. I’ve got a few.
You see them at home in high street shops as well, especially in the summer – they’re just a piece of pretty jewellery right?
These days, ankle bracelets are largely seen as accessories/fashion items, but after doing a quick bit of curious digging, it turns out there’s been a lot more to the simple ankle bracelet than serving as a pretty trinket. It goes deeper.
Ankle Bracelet History Lesson
Here in the west, ankle bracelets are generally nothing more than a fashion accessory but historically in other cultures they’ve carried symbolic meanings.
I’ve read all sorts of bits and pieces, claims about who wore ankle bracelets first, and what century….
Egyptians keep coming up as the initiators of ankle bracelets and that they were originally worn as a marker of wealth and status.
Elaborate anklets of precious stones and precious metals.
Slaves would wear string or leather ankle bracelets.
In modern day Egypt – ankle chains are still worn by dancers as an accessory rather than any other deep symbolic meaning.
India is another key player. I’m not entirely sure how much of this is still customary but it’s interesting:
Unmarried Indian women would wear anklets that would make a jingling noise when they walked – helping to draw the attention of potential husbands and generally signal the approach of a woman so that she’d be received respectfully.
Anklets were/are a popular wedding gift for an Indian woman.
Some other theories out there suggest worshipers of a deity known as ‘Baal’ allocated ankle bracelets to be worn by prostitutes.
The Swinging Sixties
Ankle bracelets also became linked to the 60s/70s sexual liberation era, though this association is virtually non-existent today.
By contrast, other countries like India, embraced the anklet deeper into its culture, which continues to this day.
South East Asia and the Middle East
In other parts of the world, a bride would wear anklets attached by a chain to shorten her steps and make her walk in a more feminine/dainty way.
Well back in Victorian England, ankles were deemed too ‘provocative’ to be seen on display so I guess you didn’t see many ankle bracelets back then.
So where does all that leave the modern day ankle bracelet then?
I think it’s fair to say, most women who wear anklets these days have no clue about their past history or connotations attached from different cultures and eras – we’re just buying them as we would any other piece of jewellery.
There are even suggestions of health benefits linked to wearing ankle bracelets these days!
It’s never a bad thing to be aware of how things used to be and how others view things across the globe, it’s all very interesting!
Ankle bracelets are not alone though.
If you do a bit of research, you’ll find most items of jewellery have their own histories, varying across cultures with different meanings and symbolisms, so there you go…..