Keeping the Skull… Alive.
Fashion has way of recycling and reinventing itself, and like many fashion trends, there is a rich history in how the symbol of the skull has continued to renew itself in mainstream fashion. Whether you incorporate the skull in an outfit to express a gothic look or a classy style, or whether you chose to wear the skull stitched on the back of a cashmere sweater or embellished in funky jewelry, it is evident that the skull is a symbol in fashion that is attractive to a diversity of consumers. But how can it be that the skull, a symbol of death originally worn by pirates to intimidate and ward off intruders, has become such a popular trend? Perhaps the image of the skull inspires the evocative ideal where endings, beginnings, sex, beauty, death, life, power, and the unknown meet, thus encouraging mystery and individuality (news.bbc.co.uk). Fashion designers and trend-setting innovators are indeed captivated by the relationship between life and death – using the symbol as an artful and symbolic image in fashion—but there is more that needs to be attributed to the popularity of such a fashion trend. Without certain skull-inspiring movies and TV shows, 80s rock bands, advertisements and branding, celebrities, and fashion bloggers, the image of the skull would be dead— It is the media that keeps the skull alive.
Ever since the 2003 release of the award-winning movie Pirates of the Caribbean, designers have been majorly influenced to incorporate pirate-like looks into their fashion lines. Penny Rose, the film’s costume designer, was nominated for a CDG award and a Saturn award win in 2003 for her original, yet beautiful, pirate costumes and has since been noted as a fashion inspiration to many fashion industry giants, such as Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier (http://dressedcinema.blogspot.fr/). The first two films made pirates popular in mainstream fashion, and after the third film in the series was released, Jean Paul Gualtier presented his Spring 2008 RTW collection. He has said in reviews that the films were certainty part of his inspiration, and he used this inspiration to make a collection that high lights the theme of piracy – a concept that is very much present in the world (http://dressedcinema.blogspot.fr). In the documentary “Starz Inside: Fashion in Film,” Gaultier is quoted as saying, “What is piracy? It’s to take something, steal it, and use it in another way,” and this is the essence of how we use, reuse, reinvent, and recycle clothes (http://dressedcinema.blogspot.fr). The popular Pirates of Caribbean demonstrates the nature of movies inspiring the rebirth of skulls used in retail fashion.
Although the fashion legend Jean Paul Gaultier first encouraged the edgy pirate-like style in his fashion shows and paved the way for the motif of death to make its way into the fashion world, it wasn’t until Alexander McQueen, one of the most brilliant designers of our time, revamped Gualtier’s vision and made the skull his trademark. The skull was an “enduring motif that McQueen transported from catwalk to the High Street” and his “famous scarf that bears the design has become a must-have” (news.bbc.co.uk/2). McQueen’s scarf was first seen being worn by celebrities that could afford to buy it, and then other designers that could reproduce an almost identical look at a more affordable price soon copied it. Johnny Depp, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Ritchie and Cameron Diaz are among the stars that have been snapped wearing it (news.bbc.co.uk/2).
In fact, the epidemic of celebrities endorsing trends and certain brands has been steadily increasing in recent years. Since the rise of our capitalist consumer culture in the late nineteenth century, marketers recognize the abundance of product choices and have been “compelled to constantly reinvent the ways in which products address and hold the attention” of jaded consumers (Sturken, Cartwright). The ‘famous person testimonial’ is one of the...
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