Lovely bones

How did skulls go from warning sign to status symbols? I talked to a lot of art historians to find out for this Los Angeles magazine article.

Lovely Bones

Skull prints, whose trendiness over the past few years would normally ensure their extinction among fickle fashionistas right about now, are in fact on no death march; the news this spring is that they’re going from badass to cutesy. Craniums are splashed across everything from preppy polo shirts to infant onesies to doggy sweaters. Victoria’s Secret, a company better known for angels and lace, has made boneheads sexy, and jeweler SOFFER ARI kits them out in diamonds at the unpunk price of $13,682 (Lisa Kline Men, L.A., 310-385-7113).

Last summer’s Pirates of the Caribbean sequel boosted the skull’s appeal, which was already spreading when celebs like Nicole Richie took to wearing black-and-white “skull row”-print silk scarves by PAULA THOMAS. This year Thomas is banking on the red version to continue the rage ($220 at Maxfield, West Hollywood, 310-274-8800). Thomas wasn’t the first L.A. designer to bone up on death glam. Jeweler to the stars Loree Rodkin began making skull jewelry in the late ’80s. Paul Frank softened the icon in 1999 by introducing “Skurvy,” a goofy, cartoonstyle graphic that appealed to hipsters. French knitwear designer Lucien Pellat-Finet took the concept to high-end stores like Fred Segal in 2000, introducing bright cashmere sweaters emblazoned with skulls. But these designers all owe a thanks to Southern California car customizer Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, who silk-screened the graphic onto T-shirts to sell at hot rod shows in the late ’50s. Death be proud.