Cool Things You’ve Just Gotta Know About Pirate Flags
Here at the Flag Makers, we have a soft spot for pirate flags. We think they’re really cool, and it turns out, many of our customers think they’re pretty cool too! We’ve churned out thousands of custom pirate flags of all different kinds. From rectangular flags to car flags, bandanas, and everything in between, we’ve gotten pretty good at recreating that skull and crossbones design for personal and commercial use.
Not only do we know a lot about making custom flags, but we also happen to know a lot about the history behind the pirate flag, and it’s an interesting history to tell!
The pirate flag we know and love today is called the Jolly Roger
When you envision a pirate flag, what comes to mind? Chances are, you think of a skull and crossbones flag where a skull sits above two bones in the shape of an X. In some cases, the cross may feature swords instead, but the general appearance of the flag doesn’t change. This kind of flag is called the Jolly Roger. It was used by many different pirate captains in the early 1700s. Pirates that used a version of this flag design include Black Sam Bellamy, Edward England, and John Taylor. It became the calling card of a pirate ship, and today, it has become the flag that represents piracy. No pirate celebration or pirate-themed event is complete without one.
Many famous pirates used their own designs
Just because the Jolly Roger design was the most commonly used design in the early 1700s doesn’t mean it was the only design used. Pirates before the 1700s used different flags, and different flags were used when the Jolly Roger was popular. That’s because many pirates created flags with their own logos, much like brands create flags with their logos today. Many famous pirates throughout time chose to use their own designs. They included images of captains toasting, pierced hearts, and one design even used an hourglass. Blackbeard, one of the most famous pirates, was said to have used a flag that featured a skeleton piercing a heart with a spear, all the while raising a toast to the devil.
They all used a black background
Although different pirate flags featured different designs, they all had at least one thing in common—they all utilized a black background. There’s a very good reason for this. Navies in the day would use a black flag to tell a ship that they should surrender at once. Many pirates from the golden age of piracy happened to be ex-Naval men, so it would make sense that they would adopt and use this particular color on their flags.
No one really knows what those designs looked like
There’s a lot of talk out there about what different pirate flags looked like, but the truth is, we don’t really know. That’s because no flag from the golden era of piracy survived. Pirates really began attacking merchant ships in the 1650s and continued through the 1730s as European colonization expanded. Many people saw the flags on pirate ships first-hand, but because pirates of the day were pretty successful at plundering, no ship was captured sailing with their flag. We only have word-of-mouth to tell us what those flags looked like. Not even a drawing has survived from the golden age of piracy!
Pirates were careful about when they flew their flags
Another reason why historically accurate pirate flag designs don’t exist today is because a pirate did not fly his flag all day and night. Instead, pirates were careful about when they flew their flags. The element of surprise was important to successful piracy. Merchant ships would know better than to approach a ship flying a black flag with an intimidating design. Instead, many pirate captains would raise a national flag when sailing the seas to trick merchant ships into thinking they were a nation’s naval vessel. Only after getting close enough that there was no chance for escape would they fly their pirate flag proudly.
Interested in designing a pirate ship flag of your very own? The Flag Makers is here to help! Whether you want the Jolly Roger or you want to create a unique design, we’ve got a custom flag just for you.
Now that you know a bit of the history behind pirate flags, head over to our fun online flag designer and get excited about creating a flag of your very own!