The Mysterious S Symbol That Almost Everyone Knows

The “Universal S“, also known as “Stüssy S“, “Super S“, “Cool S“, “Pointy S“, “Graffiti S“, and many other names, is a graffiti signature of popular culture that is typically doodled on children’s notebooks or graffiti’d on walls. The mysterious “S” has appeared throughout all of North America, South America, Europe, Russia, Asia, and Australia. Some people think it’s a 90’s thing, but there are vast amounts of documented reports of seeing this mysterious S symbol many many years before the 90’s as you will find out below:

The mysterious 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 “S” has no reflection symmetry, but has 2-fold rotational symmetry and tessellates with squares. A common way to draw the shape begins with two sets of three parallel, vertical lines, one above the other.

The origin of the “S” is unclear, but dates back to at least 1533 as depicted in the painting “The Ambassadors” by Hans Holbein the Younger (center of the tablecloth in a cropped image below).

A drawing of the “S” has been found on a painting titled “Olive Oil” from 1982, labelled “Classic S of Graff”, : (upper left corner in picture below)

and a book titled “Mechanical Graphics” published in 1890 by professor Frederick Wilson of Princeton University contains an “S” that is similar in appearance to the “S”. (couldn’t find an image from this book)

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.

Paul Cobley, Professor in Language and Media at Middlesex University in London, England, gives another explanation: “That is, it’s fun to draw.” But that easily a disassemble argument when they don’t want you to find out the true history about something..

But what are the chances that this “S” traveled all across the globe, across multiple generations with not a single common language with out anyone knowing where it came from? What we do know that this symbol is much older.. Way older than the 90s.. Many sites wont even mention the old paintings/books I included and I’m sure there is more that we missed or have not found yet..