The Arrival of Versace

Gianni Versace

Fashion designer Gianni Versace was born in Italy in late 1946. His eponymous fashion house was founded in the late 1970s. But the surname Versace, despite its strong association with haute couture, didn’t appear in the U.S. baby name data until 1997:

  • 1999: unlisted
  • 1998: unlisted
  • 1997: 10 baby boys named Versace [debut]
  • 1996: unlisted
  • 1995: unlisted

Brands often pop up in the data due to events like product launches and/or marketing campaigns. (And sometimes rap songs.) The event that put this brand on the onomastic map, however, was quite different.

On the morning of July 15, 1997, Gianni Versace was shot point-blank outside of his Miami Beach mansion. The murderer, who committed suicide days later, was a spree killer who’d had an obsession with Versace (the man, not the brand).

So that’s the unfortunate explanation behind “Versace” getting extra media attention in 1997, which resulted in the surname seeing higher usage as a baby name — high enough to end up in the SSA data for the first time. (It remained a one-hit wonder until just recently.)

The Italian (Sicilian) surname Versace can be traced back to the Greek personal name Barsakios, which could be of Arabic origin.

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