Though we often associate skulls with death, they are more commonly seen as a symbol of mortality—a hopeful celebration of everlasting life. After everything else has rotted away, the skull is what’s left of a person, a lasting, permanent reminder of who they once were.
Skulls have been associated with the afterlife across many religions, from the Aztecs to Christianity. Along with the Egyptians, these cultures consider the skull a symbol of death and rebirth. However, several cultures, including Mexicans, believe skulls protect against evil spirits and disease. They are considered symbols of good luck.
The skull first appeared in the fashion industry in the early 15th century, becoming popular as an icon worn as a ‘memento mori’ - a reminder of one’s own mortality. Fast forward to the 21st century, when the skull is one of the most common symbols used in fashion. In an ever-changing world, the skull has been a constant source of inspiration for decades.
Due to the numerous meanings and symbolic references associated with the skull, fashion has embraced it. Its versatility allows for a lot of exploration. Being a ready-made design, it can either be a stand-alone motif or integrated into a much more complex piece of art.
Alexander McQueen was known for his innovative ideas and sometimes controversial approach to fashion. Though his designs were brilliant, they were often of a darker nature. His gothic style meant the use of the skull was one of his signature themes, with his Silk Skull Scarf being one of his most popular pieces. A simple design in comparison, while encapsulating him as a whole.
Simon Wilson (co-founder of Butler & Wilson, a jewellery company dating back over 50 years) features a lot of skulls in his designs. His skull jewellery collection ranges from rings to crystal skull pendants. Designs are influenced by fashion's favorite dark world, re-imagined and re-envisioned with a contemporary flair.