Fashion is a constantly-changing field filled with colors, designs, and ideas. New ideas are created almost every day, yet some traditions and established ideas remain strong even as the years pass. And when it comes to fashion design, one of the lasting images is the skull. What is the history of the use of the skull in fashion?
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Skulls, once seen as sinister symbols, are now used on everything from children’s shirts to underwear.
- In the 16th century, artists like Albrecht Dürer were still using skulls to remind people of their mortality.
- French pirate Emanuel Wynn was the first to use the skull-and-crossbones logo on his ship’s flag.
- As skulls came to symbolize bravado, fighters—from US special operations to the Nazi SS—used them on uniforms.
- Mourning jewelry was fashionable in the 19th century, and the “look” lived on thanks to bands like the Grateful Dead and Loree Rodkin, who launched a line of Goth jewelry in 1989.
- Mexican art of smiling, dancing skulls, used to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, helped skulls become more widely accepted.
- The skull became an icon in 1970s London counterculture, where Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood launched a series of skull-inspired punk gear.
- Skulls became truly fashionable thanks to Alexander McQueen, whose scarves have been spotted on Kate Moss and the Olsen twins.
The skull is one of the most attractive and fashionable motifs around. But for some people, the skull means more than just another design, but rather a statement. With its simple yet iconic silhouette, deep meanings, and superior versatility, there’s no doubt that the skull will remain a fashion icon for a very long time. Expect to see the ubiquitous skull in fashion items worldwide for the foreseeable future.