"What's the big deal with the peace symbol? Why don't you like it? I think they're cute," our 13-year-old daughter said while we were shopping for back-to- school clothing and school supplies.
You can't miss it. More and more, they are appearing and popping up everywhere. We saw peace symbols covering every surface imaginable; earrings, necklaces, purses and many different styles of shirts at various stores including a t-shirt of Hello Kitty sitting atop the huge retro symbol, plus more. But they are not just for girls. Guys' t-shirts, belts, backpacks, and posters for either sex abound throughout the shopping mall.
But don't think they are just on inexpensive items like bumper stickers. The resurrected peace sign is on Fendi bags, limited-edition VW cars and even high-end jewelry. Tiffany advertises a platinum peace sign pendant covered in 4.8 carats of round-cut diamonds worth $4,500.
The peace sign provokes different feelings. To us, symbol represents the 1960s counterculture of the hippies and anti-war protesters. To others, it has just the opposite effect. To them it symbolizes a utopian world of peace and unity.
Many trace the symbol's origin to a 1958 nuclear weapons protest march when British artist Gerald Holtom created a design for the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). Holtom, a former WWII conscientious objector from London persuaded the group of which he was a member, the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC), that a visual image would help in conveying their message to "Ban the Bomb."
After considering a few different designs, Holtom settled on using the semaphore-the flag-signaling alphabet. The letter N, representing nuclear, has the signaler's arms pointing down at angle, super-imposed on the letter D for disarmament. The semaphore letters are surrounded by a circle to symbolize Earth.
It wasn't long before the design traveled to America where other movements ranging from the anti-Vietnam protests, the counter-culture of the '60s and '70s and the environmentalists used it.
American pacifist Ken Kolsbun wrote the book, "Peace: The Biography of a Symbol." He says, "The symbol really got going over here during the 1960s and '70s, when it became associated with anti-Vietnam protests." The anti-war protests and presence of the symbol grew in correlation to the fighting in Vietnam, Kolsbun said. "This, of course, led some people to condemn it as a communist sign."
However, if Holtom did some research, he would have found that in the symbol had already been used-by the Nazi Germany 3rd Panzer Division, wearing them on their uniform from 1941 to 1945.