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The Secret History of the Biker Ring

October 01, 2019 2 min read

Four soldiers on motorcycles at US-Mexico border circa May 6, 1918

Mexican pesos, brass knuckles, and American bikers… what do they all have in common?

Our story begins in the early 1900s, as the Roaring Twenties were ramping up. It was a prosperous time in America; a time with a distinctive cultural edge.

Flappers, jazz enthusiasts, industrial entrepreneurs and the like - the U.S.A. was a giant melting pot of creative talent and revolutionary technology. The Great War had recently ended and Western society was flourishing.

A Revolution at the Border

However, down south, there was another war slowly winding down to a close: the Mexican Revolution. A persistent uprising from political unrest and a series of dictators and mediocre presidents had spiraled the Spanish-speaking country into a two-decade-long civil war, where nearly 900,000 people lost their lives.

 

1886 Mexican Peso Coin (front and back)

 

As it ended, the conflict left Mexico and its people at a loss. And as a result, the Mexican peso was worthless. What used to be a valuable currency was now brass and silver; nothing more than scraps for metalworkers.

Born to Ride

Meanwhile, in the U.S.A., a culture born out of a love for motorcycles began to grow. Voluntary groups of men formed motorcycle clubs and began riding together in the early 1900s. As the culture grew, so did the clubs.

Some groups formed thereafter, which had a tricky relationship with the law. These outlaw groups set the precedent for what we know today as motorcycle “gangs” - the one-percenters.

Around the same time, there were a series of state-led crackdowns on various weapons, such as pistols, knives, and brass knuckles, in an effort to reduce violent crimes.

For a biker back in those days, brass knuckles (A.K.A. knuckle dusters) were a surefire way to win a bar fight. But with Johnny Law riding their rear end, they began to look for alternatives.

By the 1940s, motorcycle clubs had discovered something special on their regular rides down to Mexican border towns. Metalworkers found new uses for the Mexican peso, melting it down and molding large artisanal rings of brass and silver for cheap.

Crafted by hand, the rings depicted animals, skulls, and rich cultural ornamentation foreign to most Americans.

Examples of Mexican biker rings

While brass knuckles had been outlawed in many states, wearing a fat brass ring on each finger was still very much legal. What started as a souvenir quickly blended into the biker culture as a replacement for brass knuckles; since referred to as Mexican biker rings.

Making a Statement

Much more works of art than weapons, the rings grew in popularity and began featuring symbolism from all walks of life: nautical themes, Masonic symbols, Nordic mythology, and even the one-percenters emblem. Brass and silver were eventually phased out by stainless steel, a much harder metal that lasted longer and was safer to wear.

In the end, the biker ring is more than a ring. It’s a statement that represents who we are. Its shine is elegant, but don’t be fooled. It can still break a jaw.

While we whole-heartedly do not condone violence, we do sell the makings of a delicious knuckle sandwich. Check out our biker ring collection here.