STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Cheap Monday jeans are a hot commodity among young Swedes thanks to their trendy tight fit and low price, even if a few buyers are turned off by the logo: a skull with a cross turned upside down on its forehead.
Logo designer Bjorn Atldax says he's not just trying for an antiestablishment vibe.
The label's makers say it's more of a joke, but Atldax insists his graphic designs have a purpose beyond selling denim: to make young people question Christianity, a "force of evil" that he blames for sparking wars throughout history.
In more religious countries, that might raise a furious response, maybe even prompt retailers to drop the brand.
Not in Sweden, a secular country that cherishes its free speech and where churchgoing has been declining for decades.
Cheap Mondays are flying off the shelves at 400 kronor (about $50) a pair. Makers say about 200,000 pairs have been sold since March 2004 — and little attention has been paid to the grinning skull and dark texts such as "Over My Dead Body."
Even the predominant Lutheran Church of Sweden reacts with a shrug.
"I don't think it's much to be horrified about," said Bo Larsson, director of the Church of Sweden's department of Education, Research and Culture.
"It is abundantly clear that this designer wants to create public opinion against the Christian faith ... but I believe that the way to deal with this is to start a discussion about what religion means."
Out in the parishes, however, some Christians believe that approach is too soft.
"One cannot just keep quiet about this," said the Rev. Karl-Erik Nylund, vicar of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Stockholm. "This is a deliberate provocation (against Christians) and I object to that."
Nylund complained that Swedish companies do not treat Christianity with the same respect in marketing that they afford other religions.
"No one wants to provoke Jews or Muslims, but it's totally OK to provoke Christians," he said.
Some buyers have ripped off the Cheap Monday labels, or even returned the jeans once they realized what the logo represents. But such cases are very few, said Orjan Andersson, the creator of the brand, who doesn't take Atldax' message too seriously.
"I don't believe in neither the devil nor God. I'm not interested in religion," he said. "I'm more interested in that the logo looks good."
Henrik Petersson, 26, said he picked up his first pair of Cheap Monday jeans a few months after they were launched because he liked their punk-rocker style and the logo caught his eye.
"I think it's a cool thing. It stands out from the rest," he said. "I haven't really reflected over whether there is an underlying message."
Martin Sundberg, a 32-year-old co-owner of a clothing store in Stockholm's trendy SoFo district, said he didn't think the logo has a "deeper meaning."
"It's just supposed to be a bit of fun, some kind of anti-culture," he said.
Cheap Mondays have started to sell abroad. The jeans are being shipped to Norway, Denmark, Britain, the Netherlands, France and Australia. Andersson said they're working on introducing them in the United States and elsewhere.
And he did not expect the ungodly logo to get in the way.
"Surely, most people understand that we are not evil people," he said, laughing. "My mom doesn't think so at least."