published Monday, June 24th, 2013

Bling or blasphemy? Upside-down and sideways crosses showing up in fashion

Fashion has taken an evil twist. Or has it?

Jonesy Gilbert Wood makes cross necklaces that are gold-filled or made of sterling silver or gold vermeil.
Jonesy Gilbert Wood makes cross necklaces that are gold-filled or made of sterling silver or gold vermeil.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
  • photo
    Jonesy Gilbert Wood designs horizontal cross necklaces, available at jonesywood.com.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

Fashion has taken an evil twist.

Or has it?

In celebrity circles and for some big-city fashionistas, inverted or horizontal crosses worn as jewelry or imprinted on clothing are turning heads (but not spinning them, a la "The Exorcist"). While some folks view the trend as anti-Christian, others say it's just the opposite.

"The upside-down cross doesn't bother me much," says local musician Jimmy Tawater, who was raised in an Episcopal church and still attends St. Martin's Episcopal Church on East Brainerd Road. "It was St. Peter's request that he be crucified upside down for he did not feel worthy to suffer in the same manner as his Lord."

Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Paris Jackson, daughter of the late Michael Jackson, have been photographed wearing inverted crosses on their clothing.

The Rev. Greg Ezell, an ordained minister in the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church, says he's not offended by the cross fashion trend.

"Each individual who wears them has their own opinion, but it is hard for me to believe there is anything satanic about a cross. Everything it represents is just the opposite," says Ezell, who is moving from Chattanooga this week to Rural Retreat, Va. "The cross is the sign of the ultimate love given by Christ and the ultimate human sacrifice by dying on the cross where all of our sins can be forgiven and spend eternity with him in heaven."

Some satanists use the inverted cross as a symbol for their rituals and their rejection of all things Christian, but the late Anton LaVey, founder of the modern Church of Satan and author of "The Satanic Bible," preferred the Sigil of Baphomet, according to the Church of Satan website. Films such as "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Omen" have furthered the image of an inverted cross as satanic.

Suzanne West, owner of Frankie & Julian's clothing boutique on Frazier Avenue, says the inverted or horizontal cross on jewelry or clothing is a harmless trend.

'It's popular right now and will last for a while and then designers will move on to the next trend," she says. "We have a bracelet in the store that has a cross hanging horizontally instead of the traditional vertical way. I thought for the demographic for selling it here, it would be appropriate."

West says she hasn't had any negative comments about the line of jewelry.

"As far as people thinking this whole inverted/horizontal cross thing is satanic, I think those people are crazy," she says.

Clearly, though, some do view the trend as disrespectful to Christianity. Online shoppers interested in purchasing the trendy cross accessories for that purpose won't have a shortage of places to find the fashion, including Dysfunctional Doll, which describes its necklace as an "unholy inverted cross necklace occult black metal pendant."

Chattanoogan Pat Stewart says that, though a cross necklace has deeper meaning to her than just a fashion trend, she's not offended by an inverted cross. Sideways is a different story.

"I could never wear a cross as just fashion. It has far too much meaning for me," she says. "Upside down doesn't bother me so much, as it does have Biblical meaning and would afford the opportunity to explain why it is that way. But sideways? No."

Local jewelry designer Jonesy Gilbert Wood is fine with the sideways cross necklaces.

"I make different versions [of necklaces] in a sideways cross and wishbone pendant," she says. "I love to follow trends. The sideways style has been on trend for a while now, and I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon. I have always loved crosses since I was a little girl. I don't make them inverted, it feels backwards to me."

Coni Haley, formerly of Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., doesn't like the inverted or horizontal cross jewelry.

"I have a little trouble believing that anyone would be surprised to find that manipulating the universal symbol of Christ's death as a fashion statement would be offensive," says Haley, who now lives in Knoxville.

Judy Weir of Ringgold, Ga., says she owns a couple cross necklaces and wears them "upright like they are supposed to be."

Still, there are those of faith who see the inverted/horizontal cross jewelry simply as a passing fashion trend.

"It is fashion. If you are wearing it for religious reasons then by all means wear it 'correctly,'" says Lydia King Hargis of South Pittsburg, Tenn. "If, however, you are into fashion or just like the look, wear it any way you like. It's a personal choice."

Meghan O'Connor of Chattanooga says she doesn't "think it's offensive or stands for anything."

"It's jewelry. It's meant to be creative, beautiful," she says. "I think people should stop trying to turn nothing into something just for the sake of argument."

Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/karen nazorhill.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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