Skull Rings Are Here To Stay
To stay relevant over a span of decades in a field as dynamic as fashion, where trends change in the blink of an eye is no mean feat. And if one were to analyze the most consistent image in fashion that has remained unchanged over the years, it would have to be the skull.
Take a look around you. From biker gangs to rock stars to fashion-rebels who prefer to take the Gothic look to the boardroom and even celebrities, everyone is sporting the skull in clothing, jewelry, body art and graphics like it’s the most recent voguish trend to hit town.
Why this deep fascination with something that has been for long associated with death, mortality, voodoo and afterlife?
The history of the skull in fashion
It remains unclear when the human skull made its way from the dark coffers of Halloween decor to mainstream fashion. But it is believed that the biker gang subculture first bought skulls into the public glare.
They just loved the skull and couldn’t have enough of it. They sported it on rings, t-shirts, jackets, headgear and most importantly, even on their bikes.
Recall the insanely cool choppers of yore with skull shaped handles?
It was the perfect expression of the uniqueness that the subculture yearned for. And boy, did it alienate them from the conventional.
But call it the fascination for the sinister, the skull soon started to make an appearance on the ramp. Hollywood took notice too and from there; it has become ubiquitous in fashion. Today, it’s everywhere.
The Skull and symbolism
A lot of people steer away from wearing the skull because of its morbidity and its extensive use in the dark ages.
But that’s not the only thing that the skull symbolizes even though it always manages to get highlighted.
Art and culture:It was in the 16th and 17th century that the skull first started to be used with the deathly grin. The statement that often accompanied it was ‘Memento Mori’ which in Latin means, ‘Never forget that you must die’. In what was undoubtedly a gruesome ritual, the skull of an enemy was used as a drinking cup in ancient England. The skull was also used as a symbol for death by literary giants like Shakespeare. One of the most unforgettable scenes from Hamlet features the titular character holding a skull. In more recent times, one of the most enduring images from the Hollywood movie ‘The Terminator’ shows a pile of human skulls in a dystopian world taken over by machines. Once again, the skull symbolizes death. The use of the Skull on the Nazi Secret Service insignia though symbolized undying loyalty to the führer until death.
Danger: Due to the grim origins and the obvious morbidity associated with the skull, it made its way into symbols and signs that signified danger. The skull with crossbones for example, became a popular symbol for poison. The same symbol was also used by pirates on their flags to warn others of the potential danger that could befall them if they decided to lock horns with them.
Afterlife, luck & reverse bad luck: In many cultures, the skull was paired with wings to symbolize life after death. A serpent making its way through the eye socket was used to depict the knowledge one gathers in the afterlife. Many cultures like the Aztecs, for example, used the skull to depict good luck. When it comes to gamblers, the skull with a roll of the dice featuring black cats and sevens symbolizes reverse bad luck, which means that they are just going to hit a winning streak putting an end to their bad streak.