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WHY WE LOVE IT - Feb 11, 2022

Unraveling the potency of engorged symbolism that impregnates this garment is a multilayer experience.

Words by Eugene Rabkin, ANT/-D/RECTOR

The pentagram has been a leitmotif in the work of Rick Owens, the designer who continues to single-handedly subvert normative attitudes to clothing. The symbol has been associated with Satan, causing knee-jerk reactions from many a casual observer ignorant of the history of evil in Western culture. In the Christian tradition, starting with the book of Job of the Bible, Satan often featured as the servant of God, whose, well, job it was to test the faithful, starting with Job. This theme continues through such illustrious works of literature as Goethe’s Faust, in which the German literary master has thoroughly examined corruptibility of man. That the forces of evil can act in tandem with the forces of good continues to be a hard concept to grasp for some, even though in Faust, Goethe’s Mephistopheles, after the protagonist asks him to identify himself, says, “I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.” The same theme continues in my all-time favorite novel, “Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov. There, Satan descends onto post-revolutionary Moscow to punish the evil, pedantic literati who have been empowered by the Soviet state, and to reward the just.

Rick Owens has previously put the pentagram symbol on t-shirts and sweatshirts. But placing it onto the region that covers the phallus hardens its symbolism. The phallus has also been demonized in the Christian tradition as a source of sin. This was a perversion of Greco-Roman mythology, in which Pan, or Faun, the god of fertility, was often depicted as a goat-like figure with an erected, outsize member. The early Roman Christians, who designated non-procreational sex to be a sin, usurped that image and turned it into that of the Devil.

Fast forward to today, and the history of cultural outcasts and misfits, of which Owens has become the undisputed sartorial champion, is inevitably intertwined with the symbolism of sin. It is no wonder then that Owens has adapted the pentagram as one of his visual motifs. These swim trunks have been the hardest and most potent interpretation of the pentagram we have yet seen, so we could not pass them up. Their golden color itself can be interpreted as that other cardinal sin - greed. Wear them, if you dare - you are bound to enjoy some stimulating conversations at the beach.