Today, the nameplate necklace is simply thought of as a re-popularized Y2K fashion staple. But for people of color who have been sporting the piece since the early 1980’s and 1990’s, it serves as a representation of cultural identity, individuality and self expression.
Nameplate necklaces first originated in Black and Latinx communities as a way for Black and brown wearers to proudly display pride in their often hard-to-pronounce, non-Anglican names. Despite this fact, the nameplate’s origin is often mis-credited to the 1998 American comedy-drama series, Sex And The City.
The jewelry piece is instead referred to as the “Carrie Necklace” worn by the main character Carrie Bradshaw, played by the Caucasian actress Sarah Jessica Parker. The necklace was only incorporated in the show after Parker’s stylist, Patricia Field, saw “kids in the neighborhood” wearing the piece, and decided to place one on Parker’s character.
Field’s couldn’t have known just how significant the nameplate necklace was to the reclaiming of Black and brown identities. And she couldn’t have known how its gold material originated as a portrayal of status in ancient African and Egyptian civilizations. But despite this wrongful credit of origin, Black and brown figures would once again come and reclaim what was rightfully theirs.
Discover the evolution of the nameplate necklace.
The style of the nameplate necklace is reminiscent of the Wesekhs (chain neck pieces) and head ornaments originally worn by officials and citizens of Ancient Egypt. These adornments served as a symbol of royalty, status, and even exemplified a connection with a higher, religious, god-like power.
1980s: Chunky, Statement Jewelry Is Adopted By Hip Hop Culture
Films like Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, and hip hop artists like Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick and Run DMC would pave the way for the introduction of the nameplate necklace by rocking huge chain necklaces, medallions and pinky rings.
1980’s-1990’s: The Nameplate Becomes Available As Street Jewelry
The nameplate is created and soon available for purchase from street vendors. Fulton Street, in Brooklyn, New York, is highly credited as one the places where one could find the staple piece with ease.
Late 90’s – 2000’s: The Nameplate Becomes Commercialized
After the adoption of the nameplate necklace onto Sex And The City, it was picked up and mass-produced by larger department stores such as Walmart. This led to the beginning of the jewelry piece's capitalization, as these department stores created nameplates that were largely available to those with traditional, common, Anglican, English names.
2000: The Nameplate Enters The Red Carpet
Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez brought the nameplate to a major stage when she decided to rock a silver rendition of the jewelry style at the 2000’s MTV Video Music Awards. J.Lo's piece featured the Spanish word “Bella,” and she sported it on the red carpet, as well as when she gave her acceptance speech.
2003: The Nameplate Is Donned By Rap-stress Lil' Kim
The nameplate's significance and status is further stamped in hip hop culture when female rapper Lil' Kim donned her own nameplate chain for the cover of her album, La Bella Mafia. We would see other female rappers follow suit, years later – like Nicki Minaj who emerged on the scene in the late 2000's with her infamous "Barbie" chain.
2013: Beyoncé Steps In With Her Own Rendition Of The Style
Beyoncé has long been a fan of nameplate necklaces, as you may remember that she even donned one that said "DC" back in her Destiny's Child days. This time, the singer rocked one that featured her nickname "Yonce", and even wore the piece in both of her music videos "Blow" and "No Angel" from her self titled album, Beyoncé.
2020: Dior Incorporates J’Adior Nameplates Into Their Cruise Collection
If you look through the collections of many high fashion brands, you'll definitely notice the nameplate-inspired pieces. Though Dior has been one of the most recent high fashion brands to incorporate the style, it certainly is not alone. Brands like Lanvin, Gucci, Vivienne Westwood, Moschino, Versace, and even Chanel have long appropriated the style into their collections as well.
Present Day: The Nameplate Has Remained A Classic Piece While Still Adopting Modernized Styles
The nameplate necklace continues to be a staple piece among Black and brown wearers – many of whom still sport ones inspired by the original, gold style. Today, the nameplate is also available on tennis chains and iced-out cuban chokers. And even the original hubs of the staple jewelry piece – like Bargain Bazaar located on Fulton Street in Brooklyn – have also come to expand their range of the classic style.