COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Alas, poor Yorick.
Had Hamlet only known how popular skulls would become, he might not have tossed aside the court jester's skull so quickly.
Not just for Halloween anymore, skulls are being stamped on everything from panties to baby onesies, and though it's something of an old trend on both fashion-forward coasts, skulls have only recently become widespread.
You can find them in chain stores such as Underground Station, a shoe and accessory shop that has increased its skull stock in the past year. Besides slip-on canvas skull shoes, the stores sell a variety of skull socks, wallet chains, belts, hats and T-shirts.
Store manager Ryan Pabalan, at The Citadel in Colorado Springs, Colo., attributed the popularity of skulls to a desire to look like a rock star.
But in certain counter-culture circles (which embraced skulls years ago), the mainstreaming of the skull trend is a bit insulting, says Paula Loukakis, who, along with husband Athan, owns the Colorado Springs clothing store State of Mind.
"They've been around for 12 years. It's nothing new, it's just popular now in the main culture," she says.
Blame couture designer Alexander Mc-Queen, whose 2003 skull scarf became popular with Hollywood fashionistas.
Or Gwen Stefani, for giving skulls a rock star appeal.
Or even Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy, which led to a retail fury of pirate-style fashion.
Regardless of the reason, mainstream fashion has indeed embraced the skull, with even the big-box stores - Target and Wal-Mart - stocking up.
And shops that have carried skulls all along have seen more skull products come to market. Because of that, State of Mind started stocking more skull fashions about a year ago, says Athan Loukakis.
For the most part, skulls are sported by younger generations - teenagers to early 30s - but Loukakis says he's occasionally sold skull apparel to customers in their 60s.
"It's hard to define who's going to buy it," he says. "Some people buy it to go to a party to look tough. And some people buy it to wear all the time."
So what, exactly, is it about skulls?
"The appeal is the badass image - the bad boy," Loukakis says.
Ryan Olgren, a 16-year-old Mitchell High School student, in Colorado Springs, agreed. Though he owns only one skull T-shirt, he says it does evoke a certain je ne sais quoi - mostly because skulls represent pirates.
"People like pirates because they're rebellious," he says.
The design that accompanies the skull - pirates, hearts or a death-metal scene - also determines how edgy the message is, says 17-year-old Damon Lowe.
"There's the skulls that are for girls that are like cute - the eyes are hearts and stuff," Lowe says. "Then there's the skulls for guys that are all rugged."
Which is what made Mc-Queen's scarf edgy: Plastering the human head on highend fashion was cutting edge, says Simon Ungless, director of graduate fashion at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
But now that skulls are mainstream - they are in Colorado Springs, after all - some couture lines have since shied away from them.
Still, there's evidence that high-end skull style is alive and well. British artist Damien Hirst recently sold a human skull cast in 8,601 diamonds for $100 million. Also available: a Theo Fennell skull ring sold for about $18,800, and a sterling silver King Baby Studio skull bracelet sold for $725 at Neiman Marcus.
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