"This is such a huge gripe of mine," said Voltaire, a musician in New York and the author of "What is Goth?", a kind of "Preppy Handbook" for the living dead. "Throughout hundreds of years of history, what the skull has communicated is, 'I am dangerous.' That's where the irony is. You can buy dangerous for $11.99 at Kmart."
For years Voltaire was the happy owner of several skull-motif sweaters hand-knit by an eccentric Englishwoman. He recounted that a woman stopped him the other day on an East Village street to admire the one he was wearing. "She said: 'I love your sweater. Is it Ralph Lauren?' Then I found out that Ralph Lauren has a whole store that sells skull stuff."From what I gathered, the trajectory of the mainstreaming of skulls was: they started with variously scary misfit cultures (outlaw bikers, hot-rodders, or even actual murdering pirates if you go far back enough), then they were gradually adopted by less scary cultures (like metalheads and goths, both of which tend to be more amusing than intimidating). Then the Vice-twats and electrocoolsies (or "fashion goths", as Momus calls them) picked them up ironically, and soon every coke-snorting trustafarian in Williamsburg and Hoxton was wearing stuff with skulls on it. Then, of course, the cool hunters picked up on it, and soon H&M was selling socks with skulls on them and commercial pop bands soon had the full complement of skulls and lightning bolts on their cover artwork.
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