When I got this pair of Kustom's (the brand) they were plain white with the skulls down the side and some skull laces to match. My first thought was skull=death, hence the lettering.
The design owes more than a nod to an artist named Shin Tanaka (see his stuff at http://shin.co.nr/) who I saw had done a pair of Adidas in the book 'Art & Sole' (highly recommended for you sneaker freaks).
Im not all doom and gloom so I added eyeballs to the skulls and a splash of colour, I also replaced the laces to match.
Im redoing the sides of the sole with a more solid colour tomorrow but I couldnt wait to get the pictures up.