Having just run the gauntlet of fake designer goods that is Canal Street in New York City, I was struck at how the skull motif on scarves has really held on as a fashion item.  Since it was over ten years ago that Alexander McQueen released his wildly popular skull scarves, I just sort of thought that whole thing was over.

Not only can you still get your skull fix in Chinatown, you can also still buy them in McQueen boutiques.  The ones above were at Saks Fifth Avenue, and were priced at $295.  They were made of silk and were, motif aside, quite nice.

The fakes (top photo) were made of a rayon-type fabric and were priced at under $20.  It occurred to me that the potential buyer of the $20 scarf might not even realize that the item is a rip-off of the McQueen scarf.  The buyer might want the cheap scarf merely because he or she thinks skulls are “cool.”

How did a symbol that was once reserved for gravestones and poison bottles become so commonplace that it now decorates everything from expensive designer clothing to inexpensive trinkets at the dollar store?  How did a motif that was once so edgy that only goth kids would wear it become as common as the bird or flower?

I don’t have the answers, but the longevity of the skull motif puzzles me.  I don’t understand how something can remain cool after the over-exposure the skull has received.  It isn’t scary any longer, and it certainly isn’t edgy.

I know I’m always going on about fakes and the theft of design, but this really does not bother me.  It’s not like McQueen invented the skull motif, no more than he was the first to put it on clothes.  I’m guessing that honor went to a maker of punk rock tee shirts.

I’ll leave you with one last skull image.  This sneaker collage is on the wall of a Converse sneaker store in New York.  The former ultimate symbol of death is now a marketing tool.  Welcome to the 21st century.


Filed under Curiosities, Shopping

14 responses to “Skulduggery!

  1. Gina Cox

    Hi Lizzie! Do you know the artistif the sneaker installation skull art?


  2. I looked at the tennis shoe skill without my glasses and could not figure out what it was made of….Actually after I found my glasses the photo was quite clever. All the hanging shoe strings looked like worms without my glasses on. Very clever, Converse…but I would have rather seen a display that made me feel good…not creepy/clelver.

    I can not appreciate skull scarfs at any price…fake or real….they would not look pretty around your face.
    I suspect Goths would be the only ones wearing such creepy scarfs.


  3. Concidering the designer ‘kock-off/fake-off craze is many years old -and-how many times you see the bad imitation copies of designer hand bags that have been around for at least 30 years( and seem be accepted without judgement-and applauded as a “victory” of purchase) it makes the skull motifs in scarves etc. seem …expectedly stupid….expect to see the same person wearing it all at the same time!!!!the sneakers , the Chanel and Louis fake bags and the skull scarfs…make it / or fafe it!


    • I had just seen the excellent show “Faking It” at the Museum at FIT, so fakers were already on my mind. As soon as designers began putting their names on fashion, faking started. This was in the mid 19th century. So yes, faking has been around a very long time.


  4. Skull imagery was once very common place – back in the Victorian era. It was also common in the middle ages and Renaissance. There are tons of beads and jewelry from all those eras to show what is old is new again. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Leigh Ann

    I’ve never liked it. I always thought it was bizarre, all these women wearing clothing with skulls, and carrying purses with skulls on them, and having the Ed Hardy skull floor mats and steering wheel covers in their cars (I work as a auto repair sales/service writer so I see the insides of cars). It’s so commonplace it’s not edgy, as you say. So, why? I guess because everyone else was doing it. The fad seems to be dying out a bit, but I still see a lot of it. I actually never knew where the skull fad started, so that was interesting to learn.


  6. Well, in my part of the world I attribute love of skulls to love of Day of the Dead. If we look at it that way, it is a really old trend that probably will never die (ha ha).


  7. In my part of the U.S., November 1 means sugar candy skulls, skeleton earrings (I bought mine — three-inch dangling skeletons in bright turquoise plastic with rhinestone eyes — for 99 cents in 1986) and other Day of the Dead delights. My chiropractor has a figurine of one little skelton adjusting another’s back, and my favorite costume workroom has a little skeleton at a sewing machine. But I suspect McQueen was merely copying what the punks and some skateboarders had long been wearing. Call me a cynic, but I don’t think T shirts with writing on them originated in British designer showrooms, either. Street fashion percolates upwards.


    • On a visit to southern Arizona in the early 1990s, we were delighted by all the Day of the Day goodies. I bought all kinds of great skeleton ornaments to use as Halloween decorations. To us it was completely “foreign.”


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