Long before mankind created written communication, symbols were used as a powerful form of communication. From crude markings on a cave wall to ornate statues, man has always felt the need to create and use symbols as an expression of his beliefs and his way of life. Wearing or carrying of symbols gives us a sense of belonging to a larger family, tribe, group or organisation. Symbols provide others, even complete strangers, with a nonverbal introduction to, or even an early warning of what we believe in or from where we come. In modern times, the use of symbols is as popular as ever and probably the most confusing it has ever been. Besides traditional religious symbols such as the Christian Cross or the Jewish Star of David, we have badges, rings, bracelets, tattoos, hand signals, handshakes and even illegible graffiti all vying with one another to communicate who we are as individuals. For some people, even a cell phone ringtone has symbolism. Certain clothing brands and even colours, which to most of us are meaningless, carry powerful symbolism to certain groups of people. Unfortunately a positive symbol’s meaning can be changed and easily tainted if it is used by a negative organisation. The Iron Cross is such a symbol.
The Iron Cross has been around, unchanged since 1219. It was first used as a military decoration by Prussia in 1813. It has always been awarded as a medal of honour for bravery in battle and for going beyond the call of duty in a time of war. Unfortunately Hitler and his cronies got hold of it, stuck their Nazi symbol, the Swastika on it and turned a medal of honour into a symbol of a period in world history which should never be repeated. The Iron Cross has however, since WWII been adopted as a symbol by a small but fiercely independent group of mainly American individuals. This group consists of individuals who build and ride their own choppers and bobbers. Men and women who would never consider riding a standard motorcycle from a dealership floor or a Discovery Channel Glam Rocker.
The Iron Cross has been part of chopper history since the beginning of this movement. US WWII veterans returned from Europe with Iron Cross medals confiscated from German POWs or taken as trophies off the battlefield. The initial motorcycle gangs were started by these vets, who wore the Iron Crosses on their leather jackets. These vets were also the original creators of Harley bobbers and choppers. In a politically correct world, the German origin of this symbol is played down and it is sometimes referred to as the Maltese Cross. This is nonsense. The Iron Cross is the German version. The only difference is that the despicable swastika is not present and the symbolic meaning has changed. In chopper terms, the Iron Cross should only be displayed on a motorcycle created, chopped, wrenched and ridden by its owner. It is for this reason that Angelo’s Yamaha XS650 bobber can proudly display the Iron Cross.
Under the guidance of Tiago from OneOne Customs, Angelo who was unskilled in the use of the equipment required to build a bobber, learnt how to use the equipment and built this beautiful bobber himself. The stunning green petrol tank is off an old Triumph. Is that rack on the tank not just the most absolutely awesome old school element ever? Tiago normally just flips the standard handlebars over but Angelo has gone with a flat handlebar profile. The XS650 has a 17″ rear wheel and an 18″ front wheel diameter. I know you do not get whitewall tyres to fit these diameters. I thought that white tyre paint had been used. I was suprised when Tiago informed me that there is a place in Johannesburg that successfully bonds the white band onto any diameter tyre. Please contact Tiago for more information. Iron Crosses on the tank and the Iron Cross chopper tail light are as classic looking as the tyres.
Symbols are an important part of most cultures. There are many symbols and badges in motorcycling culture. Some are easy to understand, whilst others have a darker, more secretive message. These symbols are highly valued and will be defended by those who wear them. Out of respect for the true chopper-heads, do not put an Iron Cross tail light on your factory fresh Fat Boy or Boulevard!