Blame it on California’s two consecutive super blooms, but roses seem to be everywhere.
The heavily symbolic bud is popping up from embroidered denim, to enamel pins, to fabric patterns, and yes, even on twitter. But what’s in a name? From Hallmark to The Bachelor, a single stem rose is a ubiquitous symbol of romance, yet it’s political and visual origins are far more subversive.
An abbreviated history for you: Ancient Rome associated the rose with the goddess Venus and later, in the Middle Ages, a rose suspended from a ceiling meant anyone beneath it was sworn to secrecy. In post-WWII Europe, a rose clenched in a fist or with two shaking hands became symbols for Socialist and anti-authoritarian political parties.
In America, a rose alongside a loaf of bread commemorates the successful Lawrence Textile Strike which immortalized labor rights for immigrant and women workers. The slogan “Bread for all, and Roses, too” became a rallying cry for women promoting fair wages and dignified working conditions. From ancient worship of the feminine to smashing the state, the symbol of the rose is both lush and potent.
In Mexican tradition, a rose is the symbol linked to La Virgen de Guadalupe, who appeared in a vision to Juan Diego, an indigenous saint. According to lore, La Virgen asked Diego to gather flowers (by tradition, roses) from a hill in winter when no flowers bloomed. Miraculously, Diego found and gathered roses from the hill and brought them to La Virgen who arranged them in his cloak. As the story goes, when he opened his cloak to show the Archbishop who asked Diego for proof, the roses fell to the floor and an imprint of La Virgen mystically appeared on his cloak instead. Many if not most images of La Virgen are shown with roses at her feet or framing her image.
In contemporary culture, a rose gracefully wafting in a well-manicured hand is the universal sign for a beauty salon. It’s the official flower of the United States since 1986 and June’s birth flower is the rose.
If so standard, then why roses everywhere now? One theory on the roses’ resurgence is that it’s simple and universal, a pliable and ageless symbol. In the 1970s, graphic embroidery was a hot trend, especially on denim, and flowers, specifically roses, were and are easy to sew. As motifs, roses are fluid. To quote Jeff Ihaza at The Outline, “An embroidered rose on a leather jacket has as much a punk flair as it does romance. On something like a skate shoe, the symbol is as sentimental as it is brash, a delicate take on tough thing; skate shoes, of course, are designed to be destroyed.” As a floral shrub, a rose is particularly delicate and time-consumptive to care for. But as a visual symbol as old as time itself, the rose will bloom eternally (whether we notice or not).
by: Angella D’Avignon