The peace sign is a symbol that has a few different origin stories, but which one is correct? During the 1960s, it was used heavily in British culture and eventually made its way into American Culture. But where did it really start?
The peace sign of three lines in a circle and the peace sign of the two fingers held up are slightly different and both have different origin stories. Both have woven their ways into so many different parts of popular cultures that everyone seems to claim it – even though it belongs to no one. Different cultures will have different meanings for it.
The peace sign itself was created in 1958 by a graphic designer and Christian pacified named Gerald Holtom. He was asked to create a banner for the nuclear disarmament march in London and he wanted something simple that the public would remember.
The design of the peace sign itself is modeled after naval flags that sailors use to communicate. Holtom took the signs for N and D and combined them – at least that was his initial story.
Eventually, he said that he wanted the design to look like someone in despair with his palms outstretched, hence why the circle was added. The symbol made its first appearance on Easter Weekend in 1958.
The two-finger peace sign came about around the same time, as people looked at the design and tried to replicate it. Many give credit to Picasso for spreading it during the 1950s at the World Peace Conferences.
It was the fact that peace sign looks like the original sign with three lines that it became so popular. Over the years, the two have become synonymous.
This is the sign that has different types of meanings around the world – there are certain parts of the world where the peace sign is vulgar or even against the law.
The sign is also used as the “V for Victory,” “the two finger salute,” and even in certain music genres. It was popularized by the Spice Girls in the 1990s and is now used by Kpop bands.
It is always best to use the peace sign with your fingers facing out. Facing inwards, it is more likely to be an insult.
Coming To The United States
It only took two years for the symbol to come to the United States. It appeared on the corner of a pamphlet for the Committee for Nonviolent Action, another anti-nuclear group. By the mid-60s, it had taken over and was everywhere.
The symbol became a siren call for so many pacifists, hippies, and those who simply wanted a better world. It was heavily used by those who were against the Vietnam War.
Over the years, the peace sign has taken on new meanings and has somewhat shifted from its anti-nuclear start. Now, it has been used to mean any sign of hope in the bleakest of times. Most recently, the peace sign has been spotted worldwide at music festivals, demonstrations, Women’s Marches, and Black Lives Matter protests.
For many years, the peace sign has been a sober reminder of what is truly important in this world. It is simple, universal, and helps you to spot like minded people in the midst of chaos.