One of the most iconic Gibson designs is the SG. Originally introduced as the 1961 Les Paul, it’s gone through a huge range of revisions and reimaginings over the years, but the sleek bevels and the horns remain consistent accoutrements. Everything else is up for grabs: bridge type, number of pickups, type of pickups, number of frets, even the number of strings. And one of the most distinctive features on any SG is the pickguard - or the lack thereof.

There are three main SG pickguard types which we’re going to have a look at. Let’s start at the beginning!

The original SG - the 1961 Les Paul Standard - featured a small pickguard which followed the top surface of the body on the treble side and terminated just before the space under the B string. This design shows off a lot more of the guitar’s wood, and it feels thematically consistent with the pickguard found on a Les Paul - except pointier and flatter, to more accurately fit the SG aesthetic. What I like about this pickguard is that it plays a bit of an optical illusion on you: it can look different depending on how many pickups the guitar has and what color it is. For example, the white version on the Brian Ray SG Standard w/Bigsby almost reads as a totally different design to the black version found on the 1961 Les Paul Tribute. And yet they’re quite similar guitars in many respects. This version of the pickguard is complemented by a separate section between the fretboard and the neck pickup.

Brian Ray SG from Gibson

The ‘Batwing’ pickguard covers more of the guitar’s body, including the section between the neck and the rhythm pickup. A lot of players think of the as ‘the Angus Young pickguard shape,’ even though Angus has used a variety of different SG designs through the years. This design first appeared in 1966 and its semi-symmetrical design leads the eye up and towards the bass-side horn, emphasizing the SG’s aggressiveness. You’ll find this design on the Gibson USA SG Standard 2016 HP and T models. Check it out on the SG Standard P-90 T, where the exact same shape seems to soften a little thanks to the smaller, same-colored P-90 pickups. Or the white variant with three humbuckers on the Kirk Douglas SG.

SG Standard from Gibson

There’s another SG pickguard type that owes a little of its design to the original format: the sweeping version you’ll see on the SG Junior ‘60s. This one is particularly interesting because it has pointy accents that are consistent with the cutaways, but it also has curvier lines that parallel the bevels and rounded back half of the guitar.

SG Junior from Gibson

There have been a few other SG pickguard designs too: a number of models like the early ‘70s SG Custom, SG Deluxe and SG Professional each had two guards, one of which was more like that of a Les Paul, the other of which was a semi-circular plate holding all of the controls and output jack. The SG-250 had just the Les Paul-like guard, with the controls mounted to a slim metal plate and the bridge hidden under a chrome cover

Of course there are also plenty of SG models that don’t have a pickguard at all, including the appropriately-named SG Naked (hehehe), the seven-string SG Light 7 and SG Dark 7, and the carved-top SG Supreme 2016 Limited.

SG Supreme from Gibson

I guess it all adds up to the one of the SG’s most charming qualities: whatever style you’re into, as long as there’s a little bit of devil in you there’s an SG to match.