You don’t have to be too observant to notice that human skull imagery has been all the go in recent years. T-shirts, jackets, ties, socks, underwear, baseball caps, and even evening gowns adorned with a death head print are sold like hot cakes. Needless to say, skull jewelry is everywhere; it seems like every other person flaunts a pendant, ring, or belt embellished with this symbol. Skulls got to rise to fame despite the fact that people normally try to avoid the topic of death. Where are the origins of such an out-of-the-ordinary trend? We will try to give an answer in this post.
Significance of Skulls in the Historical Perspective
Ancient cultures gave great importance to the skull and bones, symbols of the frailty of being and, at the same time, rebirth. Warriors, seeking to intimidate the enemy and demonstrate a disregard for death, adorned their armor and weapon with skull images. For many centuries, the skull has been an integral attribute of armies and militant groups. This tradition is still alive today. During World War II, the death’s head, also known as Totenkopf, was part of the German army’s insignia. The allies did not neglect the images of skulls and skeletons either. They applied these frightening symbols to tanks and aircraft to show that they were not afraid of death.
By the way, it was this army tradition that made the skull one of the most striking symbols of the biker community. The progenitors of the biker movement were soldiers themselves. They transferred the images of the skull from military vehicles to their steel horses, and further, they carried these images throughout the United States and around the world. The most famous (or rather infamous) biker club has a skull with wings as its logo. This exact image could be seen on the fighters of the air squadron by the awe-inspiring name the Hells Angels.
At the same time, skull symbolism is closely related to hermits. They had a habit of thinking about life and its end, that is, death. It is believed that a person who chooses skull jewelry is not indifferent to such important concepts as life and death. Oftentimes, skull enthusiasts are interested in otherworldly topics. Those who worship the symbol of the skull consider death to be just a stage, a transition to another world.
Skulls in Contemporary Culture
Death’s head became a symbol of the punk culture, which emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It’s no secret that punks borrowed many elements of their image from rockers, who, in turn, were inspired by bikers. However, while biker clubs were more of a niche phenomenon and their symbolism wasn’t widely known outside their community, punks got to take the popularity of skulls to a new level. They slightly modified the representation of the skull, making it more attractive to young people. Adding a fair amount of rivets, studs, pins, chains, etc. helped spread the symbol of rebellion among young punk fans.
The fashion market, noticing the skull breakthrough, could not help but react. In an effort to target young and aspiring youth, designers started offering skull clothes and accessories, tattoo artists came up with an array of appealing tattoo concepts. By the way, Ed Hardy, a renowned US tattoo artist, made a significant contribution to the popularization of the skull. He became one of the first to combine roses and hearts with skull images in his tats.
The world-known British artist and provocateur Damien Hirst is another person to whom skulls owe their popularity. Hirst is the author of the infamous platinum skull encrusted with 8601 diamonds. The largest one featuring 52 carats takes pride of place on the forehead. Hirst called his creation “For the Love of God” and added that he had wanted to show the victory over death. Critics frowned upon saying that the sculpture is a display of bad taste. The audience, on the other hand, took it with a bang.
Another provocateur, this time from the world of haute couture, was able to introduce skullmania into the everyday wardrobe. We’re talking about Alexander McQueen and his innovative collection of skull-print silk scarves. If in the 1960s skulls infected several powerful but nonetheless subcultures, in the 21st century, they became part of popular culture. Consequently, skulls ceased to be a niche phenomenon, they turned into a widespread thing. If you don’t have a skull shirt or skull necklaces yet, you need to catch up.
It doesn’t seem like this “deadly” trend is going anywhere in the near future. If you’re not scared of images of death, then boldly jump on the bandwagon. By the way, the skull is not only death, it is also life, intelligence, the cycle of phenomena in nature, and much more. This overarching symbol will help you express your values, ideals, and worldview in a slightly outrageous way. Isn’t it what you need to stand out?