The History of the Hula Hoop

A hoop is endless—it goes round and round with no end in sight—so, it makes sense that the hula hoop has such a history behind it and a future that is bright. It is hard to believe that something, most commonly used as a toy, has been around for centuries and even used to carry a much heavier meaning.  Throughout the years, the hula hoop has taken on many different purposes such as exercise, recreation, religious ceremonial props, and much more.  The hoop has rolled through our history and proven to be more than what it appears.


The First Hula Hoop


It is a little known fact that the hula hoop was first depicted on a vase that dates back to 500 BCE. In the illustration, a man is shown holding a hoop; although, there is no other evidence of hooping from this time.  It is known, however, that the ancient Greeks and Egyptians would make hoops out of grapevines for recreation and exercise.  They even used the hoop to twirl around their hips similar to how it is used presently.


Prior to the 20th Century


Technically, the hula hoop we see today was not invented until the 1950s, but prior to this, hula hooping was very common. In fact, in the 14th century, British medical records show that many doctors treated patients for heart attacks and back problems because of rigorous hula hooping during religious ceremonies and recreation.  In the 1400s, Native Americans began using hoops for storytelling as well as a representation of eternal life during their religious ceremonies.  It was British sailors, however, who were the ones to name “hula hooping” when they witnessed the similar hip movement of the hula dance in the Hawaiian islands, and after that, into the 1800s, hula hooping started to grow even more in popularity.


20th Century Growth


The first official hula hoop that we see today—usually made from brightly colored plastic—was invented by Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin in the 1950s. After that, the hula hoop craze was inevitable.  Thousands upon thousands of hula hoops were being produced daily, and this toy could be found in almost every home.  The enthusiasm for the hula hoop was so strong that it was eventually inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999.


Today’s Hula Hoop


Today, the toy hula hoop is still prevalent. Children can still be seen playing with them, but it is nowhere near as common as it once was.  Instead, hula hooping has taken on a new form that is simply called “hooping” in which the hoop is used as a prop for dancing and a plethora of extensive tricks that are even heightened with fire and LED lighting.  In addition, it is still used widely as a fitness tool.


While the design of the hoop embodies simplicity, the history of the hula hoop is extensive. The invention is timeless, and it shows no signs of ending any time soon.  If hooping is something that interests you, it is never too late to get started.  Learn how to hula hoop so you can begin to witness the wonders of the hoop.

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