Biker jewelry is a sign of self-control, stern character, freedom, and love. To be more precise, love for life and living your life according to ever-changing rules of the road. If you dig into history, you will see that specific jewelry, as a distinctive sign of bikers, appeared around the 1940s. Then, in fact, the biker subculture was born. The newly created biker clubs began to develop their own insignia as a symbol of belonging to a particular ‘clan. ‘
Along with skulls, eagles, flames, and other common biker symbols, you will easily spot crosses. This symbol is especially loved among those who ride a chopper. Biker jewelry doesn’t just feature any cross; specifically, it carries Iron and Maltese Crosses. How come that bikers have a passion for crosses? Right now, you have a chance to find it out.
The Iron Cross adorns insignia of many biker clubs around the world. For most people out of the loop, this cross is associated with something negative. It comes as no surprise because the Iron Cross was the award of the Third Reich. How did it happen that the Nazi military award, which was given off for courage on the battlefield, became one of the main biker symbols? Is this a simple coincidence? What did bikers mean by adopting this symbol? Let’s figure it out together.
Before I answer these questions, you should take into account that the biker movement as a subculture is distinguished by a clear friend-or-foe identification, hierarchical structure of the clubs, adopted symbols, and some kind of uniform outfits. Does it ring a bell? Well, it should because military structures, from warlike tribes and knight orders to private and state armies, have been organized in a similar way.
Ok, now let’s get to the point. So, the biker movement has been originated in the USA after the end of the Second World War. The soldiers came home, but instead of joy, they experienced despondency. Problems on racial grounds, a huge gap between rich and poor, the absence of any worthy prospects – that’s what veterans faced when they returned from the battlefield. The society didn’t need heroes; instead, it required cheap labor, obedient taxpayers, and active consumers of local goods and services. At that point, the young veterans, desperate, accustomed to a military order and the constant sense of death, have lost their faith in the government and justice. They began to build motorcycle clubs — gangster and semi-gang formations with their own military order and symbolism. They picked a motorcycle as a vehicle, a boon of the US army selling off excess machines after the war.
At the same time, the German reward cross became the emblem of these recalcitrant people, simply due to a sense of contradiction. The government and society considered this symbol to be bad and forbidden. Bikers thought the other way around and therefore, adopted a symbol nobody else wanted to see. There is another opinion – American bikers simply boasted trophy iron crosses and hanged them around to emphasize their military prowess. Supposedly, they wanted to show that they were on the battlefield, destroyed the enemies, and took their medals of honor. However, many people criticize this version: if someone wants to show off his military achievements, he hangs his own orders and medals instead of exposing the enemy’s insignia. Therefore, the belief that the Iron Crosses adopted by bikers conduct the “spirit of contradiction” seems more plausible.
Thus, the Iron Cross has firmly entrenched in the biker culture. Today, bikers are not so categorical in their views. Apart from outlaw gangs, they are law-abiding and non-conflicting people. For them, an iron cross ring or other jewelry is just one of the symbols common in the biker community, nothing more.
People often confuse the Iron Cross with the Maltese Cross. The shape of each of them has actually originated from the cross known as “Patte” (in French it means paw). While the Iron Cross retains the form of the Patte cross, its Maltese counterpart has a deep V-shaped notch on each of the arms.
The Maltese Cross served to identify the Knights of Malta and distinguish them from the enemies. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta founded in 1070, also known as the Knights of St. John or The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order, was a religious stratum of society. The main task of the Order was to help and protect pilgrims on their way to the Sacred Land. Constantly participating in campaigns, battles, and skirmishes, the Knights of Malta lately moved from the religious stratum to the military Order. In 1530, Emperor Charles V gave Malta at the disposal of the Order. It was at that time that the Maltese Cross acquired the shape we known today – a white cross with eight sharp endings. It is assumed that the eight ends of the cross personify the eight vows the knights gave:
- Live the truth
- Live with faith
- Repent of sins
- Prove humility
- Respect justice
- Be merciful
- Be sincere and frank
- Withstand cruelty
Bikers like considering themselves to be modern knights. In fact, they have much in common – both ride ‘horses’ (even though bikers have steel ones), have a Code they swore to follow, love and respect their brothers, have a mission, symbolism, their life is imbued with road romantic. For those bikers who do not accept the Iron Cross as a signifier, the Maltese Cross became an excellent substitution. By the way, if you are hunting down cross biker jewelry, this site offers some nice options to catch cross rings.
Other Crosses in Biker Jewelry
Although the biker community shares common ideas, it is by itself is a motley one, consisting of people with different believes and backgrounds. Someone believes in God, someone is an atheist, and someone may even be a Satanist. Therefore, it is not surprising that biker rings carry religious crosses. For some motorcyclists, a cross ring is a symbol of faith while for others, it is just a body ornament. There is nothing wrong about it – a cross is a neutral symbol, often completely symmetrical and regularly used in art. In addition, many countries used crosses as the main military award given to people who faithfully served the state. Therefore, when you see a ring on a biker, it can mean anything. Don’t be afraid to ask a motorcyclist what cross jewelry means personally for him or her.