Before Iron Cross, Oi! punk was made almost exclusively by and for working-class England; it drew from specifically British influences (the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Sham 69), and was colored by its own local scene politics (skinheads, frustrated Cockneys, neo-Nazis, the racist National Front party). Iron Cross absorbed the sound and style of Oi! and transplanted it to Washington, D.C., then the epicenter of the burgeoning straight-edge hardcore movement. Removed from its natural habitat, Oi! in the hands of Iron Cross proved even more controversial than in the U.K.; just the vague connotations of the style were enough to rub some D.C. scenesters the wrong way. The majority of Iron Cross were skinheads, and while they never advocated racism, that was lost on a number of fans already intimidated by the violent elements of the skinhead movement. Similarly, the group's name -- and logo -- flirted with German imagery, and while the Iron Cross was a symbol of the country's military, not the Third Reich, it was a subtle distinction ripe for misinterpretation.
Iron Cross was formed in early 1981 by vocalist Sab Grey, guitarist Mark Haggerty, and drummer Dante Ferrando, all teenagers at the time. Their initial bass player was John Falls, but a disagreement led to his early exit, setting the tone for what would become a revolving-door bass slot from there on out. (Falls would later work with Ian MacKaye in the short-lived Skewbald/Grand Union.) Chris Haskett, much later a member of the Rollins Band, played on the band's demo tape, and subsequently gave way to Wendel Blow, a former member of State of Alert (coincidentally Henry Rollins' first band).
Iron Cross placed three songs on the scene-chronicling Dischord compilation Flex Your Head in 1982, and followed that with their first 7" EP, the four-song Skinhead Glory, on Dischord affiliate Skinflint. Negative fanzine coverage often plagued the group, which led to the title of their second EP, 1983's Hated and Proud. By that time, Blow was gone, replaced at first by John Dunn and then by Paul Cleary, also of Black Market Baby. Iron Cross would never get around to releasing a proper full-length album; Haggerty and Ferrando started playing with Gray Matter later in 1983, and Iron Cross' breakup was later made official. Ferrando went on to play with Ignition during the late '80s, while Haggerty joined 3 and Severin. In 2001, the GMM label issued the band's complete recorded works -- including a number of outtakes and never-before-released tracks -- on the Live for Now CD.