Saturday, November 13, 2010


Steve McQueen gives the "Two Finger Salute" at LeMans


Where did Steve McQueen get the idea for the "Two Finger Salute" at Le Mans?

Apparently, Maston Gregory, who was a friend of Steve's, seems to have used this gesture after winning Le Mans several years before the movie was released. Maston Gregory won in 1965 but the film was made in 1971. I wouldn't say McQueen was copying Gregory, but maybe there was an element of an in-joke in the gesture, especially as Gregory was driving in the race that year and is credited in the film. Why Gregory was pulling a V sign in 1965 - who knows?

Being from the Commonwealth, I can explain: this gesture is English in origin, or more correctly, Welsh, from hundreds of years ago when the French and English were at war.

Following the rout of French knighthood at Crecy and Agincourt, the French so hated and feared the Welsh Longbowmen (in the employ of the English Army) that if they ever captured one of them, they would cut off the first two fingers so they could no longer draw their bows. Therefore, on the field of battle, the Welsh bowmen would taunt the French across enemy lines, as a way of mocking the French by saying "I've still got my fingers".

The tradition continued long after the relevance of having a middle finger to draw a bow. The "Two-Fingered Salute" essentially became the British gesture for "F*ck You".

A proper English gentleman expressing his patriotism.

By World War II it took on a second meaning: "V" for Victory.

During World War II Winston Churchill used the gesture during the height of the Blitz, to tell the Germans F.U. - We Won't Quit!

Churchill - two-fingered salute.

It is the opposite of the Victory sign, which Churchill used when England won a battle:

Churchill - V for Victory.

The Two Fingered Salute is well known in the European military and all of the drivers at La Mans in the 1960s would have understood it. As the Second World War was within living memory, it was a fitting salute for when McQueen beat a German, in such a close race.

Many people also believe that the modern "middle figure" gesture is derived from that "V":

The Man in Black, tellin' it to the Peaceniks



  1. All good reasons for why I love Steve McQueen, Winston Churchill, and of course Johnny Cash. We need more like them, who are not afraid to express themeselves. Especially to a bunch of frogs....jd

  2. "Honk!!! Has anyone seen the bag with my lotions and creams and powders and oils??? Where are my glasses??? Honk!!!"

  3. I feel like I just received an introduction to the "Mens Club". This symbolism is something that I'm sure only men of certain pedigrees would pass on.

    In our society today there is very little that could be termed "men stuff". This "knowledge" needs to be shared sparingly with other men of a certain caliber. Kind of like a Masonic handshake or secret knock to get into the club house.


  4. Steve,
    Sounds like you should perhaps ignore what you percieve as an introduction to the "Men’s Club". You may not have the pedigree.

    You're not a French Poodle by chance, are you? (We only take mutts with big teeth and loud barks) It's OK if you are though, because as far as sharing this information with other men's club types goes, just like the "Masonic handshake or the secret knock to get into the club house", perhaps you were never really invited.

  5. Dunno who posted that last under "Anonymous" but I do know who Steve is, and I can assure you he is already a member of a VERY select fraternity - United States Army Special Forces.

    I also know that one is not 'invited' to become a Mason, one must voluntarily come forward and ask to join the Fraternity - recruiting is forbidden.

    Don't ask me how I know this - just rest assured that I am on the level and by the square.

  6. Actually I think Johnny Cash was expressing his feelings about the Nashville music execs who wouldn't promote or play his music later in his career.Until he won a Grammy.

  7. Jim Marshall, who took the photo of Johnny Cash, asked Cash if he had a message for the Warden (of Folsum Prison where the show was about to happen). Apparently he did.

  8. The whole archer things is a total myth. All three fingers of the hand were needed to draw a longbow, not two. The welsh at that time were actually using crossbows...the gesture pre-dates that "reference. Just like the US middle finger (fig) comes from greek times.

    1. Wrong. No crossbowmen in the English army at Agincourt, sorry...

    2. Can you please elaborate? Provide some history info?

  9. Captured bowmen would be killed, obviously.