The "Cool S", also known as the "Stüssy S", "Super S", "Superman S", "Pointy S", "Slayer S", "Graffiti S", "The S Factor", "Horny S", "The Universal S", "The Middle School S" and many other names, is a graffiti sign in popular culture that is typically doodled on children's notebooks or graffitied on walls. The exact origin of the "Cool S" is unknown, but it may have originated from geometry textbooks and has appeared around the early 1970s[page needed] as a part of graffiti culture. Contrary to popular belief, the symbol has no ties to either the U.S. clothing brand Stüssy or to the character Superman, though Stüssy did conduct an interview in 2010 with Jon Naar, a pioneer graffiti photographer with many works including this S, dating back to the 1970s.
The "Cool S" consists of 14 line segments, forming a stylized, pointed S-shape. It has also been compared to the infinity symbol. 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. The "Cool S" has no reflection symmetry, but has 2-fold rotational symmetry. As illustrated, a common way to draw the shape begins with two sets of three parallel, vertical lines, one above the other.
The origin of the "Cool S" is unclear. A similar-looking symbol appears in the 1890 book Mechanical Graphics. "Double 'S' markings" also appear in the 1982 painting Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict by Jean-Michel Basquiat. The symbol also appears in the painting "The Ambassadors" by Hans Holbein the younger.
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. Although frequently referred to as the "Stüssy S", Emmy Coats (who has worked alongside Shawn Stussy since 1985) has stated that it was never a symbol of the Californian surf company.
David Wångstedt, better known online as LEMMiNO, studied the topic for 5 years and attempted to find the origin of the S, but he concluded that the 1890 book Mechanical Graphics which was written by professor Frederick Newton Willson could most likely be the origin. Frederick taught geometry at Princeton University in New Jersey, where he could have shown students how to draw the S.
- Twin mountain drawing
- Albaydé by Alexandre Cabanel (1848)
- Kilroy was here
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- "how to make one graffiti S". DrawingNow DrawingNow. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
- Shepherd, Rebecca (August 14, 2019). "This Guy Spent Five Years Researching The Origins Of The 'Universal S'". LADBible. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
- Mailer, Norman (2009). The Faith of Graffiti. It Books. ISBN 978-0061961700.
- "Interview_Gribble1". web.archive.org. 2019-08-20. Retrieved 2020-07-28.
- Lindwasser, Anna. "Here's The Story Behind That Cool 'S' Thing You Used To Draw In Class". Ranker. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
- "Local Investigates: The Mysterious S Symbol". NYU Local. February 12, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
- Neelon, Caleb (November 23, 2010). "Solve the Mystery of the Pointy S". Print Magazine. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
- 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.
- 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.
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