I’ve always loved skulls the versatility available in clothing and jewelry. It is surprising just how much skull motifs have moved away from counterculture to mainstream in the past 10-15 years. So why have skulls become so popular in fashion?
Skulls have a universal appeal, and everyone can identify with skulls and their inevitable mortality. Skulls will remain stylish since they are a universal and iconic symbol that existed long before established fashion trends. Whether its jewelry, boots, or tops skull fashion is here to stay.
A variety of skull motifs begun to appeal to a wider audience as popular fashion designers and celebrities began to show their skull wear. I will explore how skulls become so popular in more detail.
Deciding on what skull motif appeals to you will depend on if you like the attention that an aggressive look brings or maybe your part of the heavy metal, biker, or gothic subculture.
Skull style in clothing, jewelry and footwear was a staple in several subcultures long before mainstream acceptance. Heavy metal music, bikers, goth’s, and counter cultures in general were the first to popularize skull fashion.
We can’t forget the pervasiveness of skulls and dark motifs used in a variety of holidays and festivals around the world. Halloween being the most obvious and of course sugar skulls used in the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico.
These holidays both occur within days of each other and offer a wide expression of costumes, designs and human creativity.
It’s not surprising that skulls took on a mass appeal since everyone can identify with skulls, grim reapers, sugar skulls, and historical artwork. Skulls are one of the longest standing fashion icons in existence.
Now skulls are so common they appear in tattoos (very popular), face paints (day of the dead festival has amazing makeup), body piercings, children’s clothing, underwear, and even home décor (not just during Halloween).
Two famous fashion designers, Alexander McQueen and Lucien Pellat-Finet, introduced skulls into their exclusive and very expensive fashion designs.
Once their designs hit the runway and celebrities began to endorse this sinister fashion, skulls took off into mainstream fashion. A classic example is Alexander McQueen’s skull printed scarf.
Alexander McQueen Scarf from: Neimanmarcus.com
This trend has continued and expanded from fashion runways to street, urban and underground style. It has been popularized by singers such as Keith Richards and Ozzy Osbourne and actors such as Johnny Depp and Sylvester Stallone.
Of course, some people are just into skulls, the symbolism of death and the underworld, or they just simple think they look cool. Other people just want to look badass and show off their rebellious side. No matter the reason skulls will always remain a popular trend in fashion.
Skulls have been pervasive in artwork dating back to the 14th century. It can be seen in a variety of historical European artwork, Christian churches, gothic architecture and a variety of religious symbols. Skulls are so much more than just symbolizing death and mortality in the creative realm of art.
As I mentioned above, the Day of the Dead festival, is a fantastic display of art through beautiful costumes, paintings, photography, makeup art, and the breathtaking displays of food and deserts.
The creativity displayed in the creation of sugar skulls in bright and vibrant hues is one of most popular festivals celebrating death.
Everyone knows what sugar skulls look like with the use of flowers, variety of shading, and elaborate details around the mouth and eyes.
Skulls in European paintings, portraits, religious artwork and still lives dates to the 14th century. Danse Macabre (dance of death – genre) is one of the oldest representations of skulls in European art and was first portrayed not long after the black death.
A variety of murals depicting Danse Macabre were quite common throughout the 15th century in churches.
Skulls were also prominent in portraits of the 15th century and were arranged alongside other decorative items on a desk, table or shelf.
Skulls were depicted in the vanitas style to remind viewers of the transience of life, the futility of pleasure and the certainty of death. These still life images included aspects of death, often a skull and still life painting.
There were very popular in the Netherlands and sometimes skulls were replaced by images of death or decay such as: rotting food, decaying flowers, or insects.
Lucan Van Leyden’s St Jerome muses over a skull – Dailyartmagazine.com
Pieter Claesc - Still Life in 1628 - Dailyartmagazine.com
Skull tattoos, like skull fashion, have become more pervasive due to celebrities, skull fashion, Hollywood and how easily they can be shared on social media.
The use of skulls in tattoos has become quite a phenomenon. The number of photos and designs shared on social media and the internet is incredible.
If you have ever wanted to get a skull tattoo there is no shortage of ideas available for you. Simply do a quick online search, especially on Pinterest and Facebook and you’ll find thousands of ideas.
Skull tattoos convey a variety of meanings to people such as: powerful and edgy to symbolize strength, a protection over a life change, or simply overcoming diversity.
Skulls are an intentional reminder of the finality of life and all things. That we are all part of a natural cycle in which death is always the conclusion.
Some prefer skull tattoos as a deep symbol to commemorate their loved ones or as a warding ritual to make them feel less threatened and more control over their lives. While others just think skull tattoos look cool, edgy and badass.
Skeleton tattoos are also quite popular and symbolize that death is not to be feared, that you may not like the idea of dying but you’re not afraid of it.
Skull tattoos are some of the most popular full for symbolism and meaning for the wearer. They represent both a positive and negative connection with death and mortality.
I’ve put together a comprehensive chart below of the most popular skulls tattoos and what they symbolize.
Sugar Skull Tattoo – from the Mexican festival Day of the Dead. They are more popular with women and are worn to honor the death of loved ones.
Skull & Leaves Tattoo – symbolize that you live by your own terms and will make your own path in life.
Skull & Rose Tattoo – symbolize the struggle between good and evil, the beautiful and ugly.
Human Skull Tattoo – that death does not scare you and do not let the fear of your mortality dictate the quality of your life.
Celtic Skull Tattoo – symbolizes a higher form of power, knowledge and understanding, the seat of your soul.
Grim Reaper Tattoo – symbolizes the circle of life and lack of control you have over it. It also represents courage in the face of death.
Serpent Skull Tattoo – a gothic symbol representing the persistence of knowledge after death.
Tribal Skull Tattoo – are worn to commemorate a loved one whom has died and the ongoing presence of their spirit.
Skull & Wings Tattoo – are worn to represent growth in your character.
Longhorn Skull Tattoo – a native American symbol representing everlasting protection of earth’s natural elements, and the courage and strength to fight against evil.
What does a skull ring symbolize?A skull ring is worn to represent strength, confidence, individuality and one’s mortality. Skull rings symbolize the wearer’s bravery and resilience in the face of death and the freedom for self-expression.
Are skulls good luck? In Celtic culture skulls represent the seat of power and the house of the soul. Skulls are used to celebrate the memory of the dead as a good luck charm. More recently, some people prefer to carry tiny stone skulls in their pockets as a good luck charm.
Can skull stainless steel jewelry be worn in the ocean? Stainless steel jewelry can endure a small amount of exposure to salt water. A small amount of tarnishing can occur but that can easily be wiped off with fresh water. But, its not recommended to wear any form of jewelry while swimming in the ocean.