The unique combination of “cute but bad” has been increasingly popular in recent years, though it can probably be traced back to the 1950’s, if not earlier. We are now seeing it used in everything from toys and clothing to wallpaper and watches.
Clearly, the skull has no shortage of symbolic interpretations. Underlying all of them however is its most common use as a symbol of our mortality. As such, the skull reminds us that we won’t live forever and our life is actually more important because of this. A skull crowned by a wreath of roses is referred to as a ‘carpe diem’, a reference to the Latin phrase in a poem by Horace, which is generally translated as ‘seize the day.’ For Horace, mindfulness of our own mortality is key in making us realize the importance of the moment: “Remember that you are mortal, so seize the day.” From this point of view, the skull is no longer symbolic of anything dark or evil, but instead becomes a positive symbol that encourages us to live life to its fullest.
Historian, Harley Owners Club, Kingwood, Texas Chapter
Carlos Miller, The Arizona Republic
Gerald Erichsen, About.com