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Cool S

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A drawing of the Cool S and a four-step guide to drawing one

The Cool S, also known as the Universal S, the Stüssy S, the Super S, the Pointy S, the Banksy S, the Surfer’s S, and the Graffiti S, is a graffiti sign in popular culture and childlore that is typically doodled on children's notebooks or graffitied on walls. The exact origin of the Cool S is unknown,[1] but it became prevalent around the early 1970s as a part of graffiti culture.[2][3]


The Cool S consists of 14 line segments, forming a stylized, pointed S-shape. It has also been compared to the infinity symbol.[4] The tails (pointy ends) of the S appear to link underneath so that it loops around on itself in the same way as the infinity symbol does.[5] The Cool S has no reflection symmetry, but has 2-fold rotational symmetry.


The exact origin of the symbol is unclear,[6] but it is generally considered to be an artifact of childlore,[7] meaning that it is taught by children to children, over the course of generations.

Jon Naar's photographs of graffiti in New York City, which were taken in 1973 and published in The Faith of Graffiti in 1974, feature the symbol numerous times, identical to its modern form. Jean-Michel Basquiat's artworks also occasionally have the symbol hidden somewhere, such as in Charles the First, and in the one titled Olive Oil from 1982 it is labelled as the "classic S of graff".[8]

The name "Superman S" comes from a belief that it was a symbol for Superman, whose costume features a stylized S in a diamond shape, but that shape is quite different. Emmy Coats (who has worked alongside Shawn Stussy since 1985) has stated that it was never a symbol of Stussy's Californian surf company.[9] In 2010, the company uploaded a video to Vimeo[10] and later to YouTube[11] in which one of Jon Naar's 1973 photographs of the symbol can be seen.[non-primary source needed]

The symbol was trademarked in the United States in July 2020, but Mark May, the trademark owner, says he does not wish to own the trademark for financial reasons but rather "to preserve it [...] and to truly revel in its irreverence".[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shepherd, Rebecca (August 14, 2019). "This Guy Spent Five Years Researching The Origins Of The 'Universal S'". LADBible. Retrieved April 30, 2020.[better source needed]
  2. ^ Mailer, Norman (2009). The Faith of Graffiti. It Books. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-06-196170-0.
  3. ^ "Interview_Gribble1". 2019-08-20. Archived from the original on 2019-08-20. Retrieved 2020-07-28.
  4. ^ Lindwasser, Anna. "Here's The Story Behind That Cool 'S' Thing You Used To Draw In Class". Ranker. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  5. ^ "Local Investigates: The Mysterious S Symbol". NYU Local. February 12, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  6. ^ Neelon, Caleb (November 23, 2010). "Solve the Mystery of the Pointy S". Print Magazine. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  7. ^ Beck, Julie. "Why Did We All Have the Same Childhood?". theatlantic.com. The Atlantic. Retrieved 11 April 2024.
  8. ^ Hoffman, Fred (2017). The Art of Jean-Michel Basquiat. New York: Enrico Navarra Gallery. p. 211. ISBN 978-2-911596-53-7. The double 'S' markings on the center piece resemble other marks and gestures found in Basquiat's paintings from this time [...] While it became less and less a part of Basquiat's art production, there are continued references to graffiti style in his paintings and works on paper, such as the 'S' symbol.
  9. ^ Morgans, Julian (July 23, 2016). "That 'S' Thing Everyone Drew in School, What Is It?". Vice. Retrieved March 21, 2019. No, this is not an original Stussy Logo [...] I personally get asked this a lot, but people have been drawing this S long before Stussy was established. People have just assumed it was Stussy and it's sort of spread from there. It's actually quite amusing.
  10. ^ "Stussy - Jon Naar" (video). Stüssy. 8 March 2010 – via Vimeo.
  11. ^ "Stussy - Jon Naar". StussyVideo. May 26, 2011 – via YouTube. Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Morgans, Julian (July 6, 2020). "Meet the Guy Who Just Trademarked 'The S Thing'". Vice.com. Vice. Retrieved July 26, 2023.