Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Pope Francis share very little wardrobe-wise, apart from one very significant, very trendy item: the cross.
The cross has been frequently recycled as a fashion element since becoming a staple of the rock glam and punk looks of the '80s. Over the past few decades, the Christian symbol has shown up on countless celebrities and in the collections of respected designers like Versace and Dolce and Gabbana—often with little apparent regard for the symbol's religious import.
Despite any frustration I may feel as a Christian over the commodification of the cross, I find fashion's tendency to pull from religious imagery unsurprising and even inevitable. Like most creatives, fashion designers draw inspiration from wherever they can find it, and the church's rich history of symbolism and aesthetic excellence make it a prime source. Plus, most nominal Christians or unbelievers wearing the cross often do so without ill intent—adopting the symbols into their style for aesthetic or even sentimental reasons.
Recently, the cross's place in fashion has shifted. Influential Internet style stars wear Christian imagery with attitude. Their stylistic use of the cross transcends indifference, landing squarely in the territory of irony or even mockery. Juxtaposing a cross-emblazoned cardigan with a "Cute as F#%K" T-shirt or wearing a cross ring while flipping off the camera, for example, results in plenty of Internet hype from fashion-lovers on sites like Tumblr, Lookbook.nu, and We Heart It.
Creative and cutting-edge, fashion bloggers love to break the rules and subvert convention. Blatant disrespect for the cross, which used to mostly reside in small subcultures ...1
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