No rock star could be seen in public without at least sporting a skull and crossbones. Who started the skull and crossbones trend in this weird world? Why are metalheads totally obsessed with it?
Punk, metal fan or even rock star himself, welcome to the world of skulls. Take our word for it: skulls are our specialty!
The skull is one of the great symbols of rock culture. Metallers have used the image of the skull and crossbones on their album covers, tattoos and clothing since the 1960s. A symbol of rebellion and survival, it’s seen at rock and roll concerts everywhere.
In this article you will learn what the meaning of the skull and crossbones is in our culture. And how a metalhead uses the image of the skull to impose his style under all circumstances.
Let’s go 🤘🏻
Importance of the skull and crossbones in rock music
The image of the skull has been widespread in the art world for centuries. And if one style of music has taken it over perfectly, it’s Rock & Roll! 🎸 Some say the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards was the first to wear a skull ring, bringing the skull to the music world. It is now used by many of the greats of this universe. And all the musicians in the scene wear a skull in one way or another. 💀
If you had to sum up the meaning of the skull for a rocker in one quote, it would undoubtedly be: « What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger ».
After a few decades of punk music, wearing the skull and crossbones became more than just a symbol of rebellion, but also a symbol of survival . 💪🏼 Modeled on guitarist Dave Navarro, who broke free from his heroin addiction. He himself uses the image of the skull and crossbones as a more or less ironic symbol for the fact that he almost died several times… « We all flirt with death in a way, » he says.
In today’s society, skulls are mainly associated with death and evil. However, the skull and crossbones is not only a symbol of death , but also evokes pirates, horror films, Halloween costumes and the Mexican festival « Día de Muertos » (Day of the Dead) – a celebration that honors the life lost rather than life the sadness.
Most rockers see themselves as modern-day pirates 🏴☠️-just like Harley riders- for whom skulls were a pretty effective deterrent in the days of ship looting. And nothing expresses that more clearly than a skull and crossbones. As we all know, rock ‘n’ roll has evolveddeveloped out of an anarchist movement in the 1960s that opposed what was perceived as « normal ». And the punk world has always known how to maintain that energy, especially through what the skull and crossbones exudes.
One of the meanings can also be borrowed from « Danse Macabre » or Dance of Death. The term comes from the Middle Ages and is a metaphor for the universality of death, which means: « No matter what position someone holds in life, the dance of death unites all ». That may sound grim, but it isn’t. The idea is that the very fact that we’re all going to die at some point is what brings us together in life. And above all, it brings us together at concerts and festivals. 🤘🏻
1) Highlighting of the skull by the rockers
After looking at the meanings of the skull and crossbones in rock music, it’s not surprising that a band like The Dreadnoughts -with a distinct folk-punk style- would choose to use the skull and crossbones. Even bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, who play a similar form of less violent music, also use a lot of skulls and skeletons. 🦴
Although none of these groups have a logo, they make extensive use of the skull and crossbones in their posters and clothing style. Teenage Bottlerocket is another band that flaunts the skull and crossbones . But skulls and skeletons aren’t used exclusively for logos or album covers in rock ‘n’ roll. Not even close! Skull t-shirts and tattoos are everywhere. We’ll get to that later in this article.
2) The arrival of the Skulls in Rock & Roll culture
How did heavy music, especially heavy, become so associated with the skull and crossbones image? Which stars and bands triggered this enthusiasm? Let’s take a look at it right away 👊🏼.
THE GRATEFUL DEAD
The use of the skull image in rock music likely began on The Grateful Dead album covers and concert posters in the late 1960s. For the concerts on September 16 and 17, 1966, the band offered the audience a magnificent poster depicting a skeleton with a skull crowned with roses.
We can’t talk about skulls in punk music without mentioning The Misfits and one of the most famous, if not the most famous, skull imagery in the rock world. The Misfits’ skull first appeared on the cover of their 1978 single « Horror Business » and was inspired by (some say completely stolen) a poster of the 1946 horror film « The Crimson Ghost. »
From that point on, the skeleton became the band’s mascot and the skull and crossbones logo also became an iconic symbol. And what better visual representation for a band so influenced by horror than a skull 💀! The skull and crossbones and a variety of skeletal figures have appeared on hundreds of Misfits posters from the beginning to the end of the band’s career.
Social Distortion is another band that uses the skull as their emblem . And their logo is more than a classic skeleton… it’s a dancing skeleton wearing a hat while holding a cigarette in one hand and a glass of martini in the other. Yes, that sounds a bit odd (or rather genius) and the band has used it consistently since forming in 1983. The skull and crossbones can also be found on almost all of their t-shirts.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2011, Mike Ness, singer and guitarist, explained where the band’s skeleton came from: « It came to our mind at a New Year’s Eve party. It felt like this: a skull, that’s life, that’s death, that’s celebration! That seemed very powerful to me ».
Elsewhere in punk rock, the Alkaline Trio are known for their skull and crossbones logo . The logo is associated with macabre images such as coffins and blood. This and the band’s poetic lyricism has helped them to be followed by goths as well as punks. 😈 A bit like the Misfits before them!
Display the skull like a rock star
No self-respecting fanatic can go to a concert without wearing a skull and crossbones image in one way or another! And there are a thousand ways to emphasize the image of the skull for a rock fan . Let’s take a look at the must-have basics together. 🤙🏻
1) skull jewelry
The trend for skull jewelry has waned somewhat over the last two decades, but skulls are still rock stars’ favourites. 🤘🏼 They convey the image of someone living life to the fullest, a rebel, an outlaw…
THE SKULL RING
Living by different rules means cultivating a different style. Wearing a « »skull ring » » is one of the rock musician’s favorite attractions. The very idea of flirting with death, as Keith Richards so aptly put it, is already living life to the fullest! And what could be better than adorning his hands with skull rings to fully express his will to live by his own rules.
THE SKULL BRACELET
One of the most popular pieces of jewelry in the rock world is undoubtedly the » » skull bracelet » » . The color of the steel pairs perfectly with leather and black to underline your style and send you straight to hell. 👹
2) The skull t-shirt
The skull t-shirt is an absolute must for your wardrobe as a metal fanatic. Since its inception, our favorite music genre has featured the biggest stars on stage wearing a skull and crossbones t-shirt (when he’s not shirtless, yes, that’s right). And after smashing his guitar on the floor, he quickly moves on to the idea of ripping his t-shirt, why not? So we cordially invite you to get your skull t-shirt and join the hard family if you haven’t already. 🎸
Join the Rock Star youth movement
We’ve seen together how the skull and crossbones is almost as ubiquitous as the electric guitar in the world of heavy music. And what meaning it has for a fan to post the skull and crossbones picture . You also know perfectly well how to put the image of the skull as a rock star at your service. 🤘🏼
Now you can take action! We have selected the best rock ‘n’ roll skull items especially for you …
For rock culture, it is interesting to delve into the legendary band Gun’s and Roses .