Horns Up (Metal Horns) Invade Mainstream Culture!

Cat HornsYet another example of how the terms: “rock on” | “rockstar” or the “horns up” gesture continue to invade mainstream culture.

I ran across this cutesy [sic] logo on the internet. It’s a site that posts pet pics, so I am not promoting it; something triggered in me upon encountering. You know, one of those ah-ha moments or sign-of-the-times-slap-you-in-the-face moments [laughs].

Allegedly, what started out way back in Italy (and some Mediterranean cultures, when confronted with unfortunate events, or simply when these events are mentioned) the sign of the horns may be given to ward off bad luck.

It is also used traditionally to counter or ward off the “evil-eye” (malocchio).

Most peeps came to recognize this gesture from seeing Metal icons Ronnie James DIO [R.I.P.], Ozzy Osbourne and maybe Gene Simmons [or so he claims] using it repeatedly onstage over the years.

According to Ronnie, he didn’t invent the “horns” hand gesture, he just popularized it.

“I was in Sabbath at the time. It was a symbol that I thought was reflective of what that band was supposed to be all about. It’s NOT the Dio_-_1998devil’s sign like we’re here with the devil. It’s an Italian thing I got from my Grandmother.” Dio said in a 2001 interview.

“It’s to ward off the Evil Eye or to give the Evil Eye, depending on which way you do it. It’s just a symbol but it had magical incantations and attitudes to it and I felt it worked very well with Sabbath. So I became very noted for it and then everybody else started to pick up on it and away it went. But I would never say I take credit for being the first to do it.”

*As time passed, the “horns” came to symbolize not only Sabbath but heavy metal music in general and rock fans the world over adopted it as a sort of not-so-secret handshake.

“The Age of Irony” dawned in the early to mid-eighties and among the “progressive” set, flashing the “horns” became the visual equivalent to yelling “Freebird” at a concert. Let’s Active fans had found a way to simultaneously make fun of the heshers that beat them up in high school while appearing deliciously droll to their bolo-tied brethren.

By the time a new generation of kids came on the scene, only jaded slackers would flash the two-fingered salute in an eye-rolling attempt to elicit knowing snickers from the rest of the coffee-house. Then came NuMetal.


RRC - logo

Postscript: We stuck with the Horns. F**k ’em.


Rap/Rock Mooks all across America had learned from their cousins, stepdads, uncles and cellmates that the horns meant something having to do with Hard Feckin’ Rawk. It was a way for a guy to scream “Woooooooo!” without uttering a sound. The horns enjoyed a brief renaissance until the already painfully derivative genre that nurtured the comeback began to feed on itself and suck even harder.

Today, the horns are merely another imagined accoutrement of the “band guy” like his eyeliner or backwards baseball cap. In photos, it is imperative the band guy flash the horns to identify himself as someone who “rocks”. The irony lies in the fact that 98% of the people who flash the horns to signify that they rock, in fact, do not.



When the RRC [Rock and Roll Confidential] website launched quietly, we adopted as our symbol a stylized version of “The Horns”: a modification of the classic Windows “pointing hand”. We felt it represented music and computers, which is where the Internet lives. It also represented one of the few times we actually came up with something clever.

However, during the revamp of the site, we began to have doubts about our trusty sidekick. There were just too many pictures of douchebag band guys flashing the horns. People were flashing the horns at MTV Beach Parties and N*Sync concerts. NuMetalers flashed it when they weren’t giving the finger. The whole thing had become a huge cliché, and it seemed like a good time to put it to bed.

So, on one hand, our little logo [above] is a neat way of saying “Hey look, it’s Rock and Roll on the web…or something.” On the other hand, thanks to douchebags like the ones that reside in our Halls of Douchebags, it’s become a played-out joke like dookie chains and Jackson guitars.

In the world of band photography, only one totem approaches the ubiquity of the brick wall: The “Horns”. We’ve all seen it thousands of times. It’s the hand gesture, index and pinky fingers outstretched, meant to symbolize rock and roll, world-weary ennui and sarcasm or simply partying down.


In closing, rawk on, all you [wannabee] rockstars out there.

Horn’s Up!



*Quote from RRC


Should this [essentially] harmless, iconic gesture be put to bed or is it too late in 2014?

2 thoughts on “Horns Up (Metal Horns) Invade Mainstream Culture!

  1. Another great read,.as usual, Curt!
    I’m gonna share this one all over. I think people need a refresher course, you know?
    I hope Life is treating you extra well!

  2. Great article!

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