If you have ever seen bikers you surely noticed skulls. They draw them on their motorcycles, they flaunt skull tattoos, they wear them on their t-shirts, bandanas, jewelry, and accessories. For bikers, skulls are mainstream, classic, and normal. It seems like it was a union made in heaven.. or hell if you will. But how did they meet at all? Well, this is an interesting story. In fact, there are a few versions of how a skull became a patron saint for motorcyclists. So bear with us and learn all about it.
How Bikers Met Skulls
The romantic version says that a skull defies death. Or, more precisely, it scares it away. There is a belief among bikers that if you have a death’s mark on your (which is the skull), the Grim Reaper will never come after your soul. That’s why bikers laugh in the death’s face. Does it really work for them? The mortality rate in road accidents doesn’t back up this legend.
The real reason why bikers love skulls has more to do with history rather than romanticism. Just like pretty much every symbol in biker club insignia, the history of skulls begins after the Second World War when soldiers returned home from the frontline. Those veterans lived in a world full of adrenaline and daily confrontation with death. They lacked that feeling in civil life.
After the war was over, there were too many motorcycles the US army didn’t need anymore. That’s why it decided to sell them to anyone who wanted to have a two-wheeled vehicle. Veterans got used to motorcycles they had in the army; therefore, it came as no surprise that those mean machines ended up in their garages. For retired militaries, a bike became a way to recreate that sense of freedom they once had as well as boost the adrenaline in their blood. So, thousands of veterans atop motorbikes spilled out onto American highways. They started building gangs and maintained the camaraderie they found in times of war.
During the war, veterans acquired many souvenirs. For instance, they picked up military awards of fallen enemies and flaunted them as trophies. You can still see Iron Crosses on bikers. Skulls were one of those symbols the war popularized. You could see them on aircraft, tanks, jeeps, and heavy armament. Bikers simply adopted this habit.
Hell Angels Popularized Skulls
So, North American air regiments, as well as those of allies, used skulls in their emblems. The most famous out of those are Hell Angels. They had a skull with a pair of wings as their emblem. When the aviators flew back home and started their own motorcycle club, they didn’t think much before transferring that image to their club’s logo. This is how the infamous Hell Angels MC originated. Those were arguably the members of that club who popularized skulls in the biker community and made them the classic biker symbol.
This is how skulls appeared on jacket patches and motorcycle decals. It was a matter of time before they spread over jewelry and accessories. It happened in the mid 1950s when bikers spotted Mexican rings. Those were chunky, solid, and pretty cheap. They carried various symbols including the ubiquitous skulls. Since then, you can’t imagine biker jewelry without skulls. By the way, here is a cool collection of skull necklaces for men if those symbols are to your liking.
The Role of Skulls in History
The skull symbol is much older than the biker community. Let’s take the pirate flag. It is believed to have been used for the first time by King Roger II of Sicily. Hence this skull is called Roger, Jolly Roger.
The king was a member of the Order of the Knights Templar. The Templar fleets are considered to origin the piracy in Europe. When their order was dismissed, they dedicated to embark on looting in revenge. Many people even see something in common between the crossbones and the Templar cross.
In the UK, Old Roger is the name that the devil has. Pirates had a tradition to customize the Jolly Rogers flag. Each pirate captain had his own flag. Usually, pirates took the original Jolly Roger and complemented it with additional symbols such as knives, demons, skeletons, bleeding hearts, etc.
A few centuries later, the Nazis familiar with the history of piracy adopted the crossbones for one of their most ruthless and terrifying units, The Schutzstaffel otherwise known as the SS. And the rest you already know – the ally soldiers took German insignia as trophies and this is how skulls appeared in the biker community.
And do you like skulls? Or you find them intimidating. If you think that a skull stands only for death and destruction you are totally wrong. In many cultures, it represented life and resurrection. You probably saw many skulls during the Mexican Day of the death. Those are not scary at all. The beauty of the skulls is that you can give them any meaning you want – life, death, protection, wisdom, etc.