Fashion always claims to be at the forefront of innovation, but when you study things a bit more in-depth, quite often you easily spot strong links with the past and with traditions. Younger fashion fans or uneducated influencers who may not be familiar with certain images, symbols or references, quickly adopt them thinking they may be new or innovative, even when that's not the case.
Alessandro Michele at Gucci has for example been delving into his national and personal heritage and lifted some ideas from history for both his clothes and accessories. Think about the multiple amulets he often wears or that can be spotted on Gucci's runways and you will spot certain references, among them coral amulets in the shape of hands or teeth set in gold (Michele's nephews').
These objects were actually rather popular when I myself was a child, so let's look at the meanings behind them: the coral "mano in fica" (the fig) or manus obscena as described by Ovid, consists in a red coral hand with its thumb between the index and middle finger in a closed fist, a synonym for the female genitalia. The obscene gesture had the same meaning of spitting, it was indeed an act of defiance and a gesture of protection against the evil eye.
For what regards the teeth, well, they were supposed to have a special power in Roman times: animal teeth on strings were very popular and they were often used to protect children, cure them from fever or keep nightmares away. In the same way, baby or milk teeth were very special: Pliny stated that women wore on their arms their son's first lost tooth to cure a pain in their private parts, and Aelius Promotus suggested that women giving birth should have donned the tooth of a first-born child to accelerate the process.
As I said, these symbols were still popular when I was a child, and apart from a coral hand, my mum also had my brother's first tooth and mine set in gold. Upsetting or bizarre? Well, it is part of a classical tradition from Roman times and it was still popular in the late '70s in Italy.
Apparently it is now popular again, and apart from wearing these amulets, Michele also incorporated a wisdom tooth from actor Jared Leto in a Gucci artwork included in the 16th issue of A Magazine Curated By that he edited. How funny to think that the epitome of today's coolness was just part of a tradition when I was growing up.