When the God Knights were introduced in One Piece, there was immediate conjecture that Red-Haired Shanks was either a member or the commander of the mysterious new gang. Through images, his acts, or his purported authority when interacting with members of the World Government, there have been minor suggestions that Shanks has some link to either the Five Elders or the Celestial Dragons. When the God Knights were seen in silhouette, the belief that Shanks was the leader was shattered.
Eiichiro Oda has used silhouettes to hide characters throughout One Piece, giving the reader an impression only to subvert expectations when the character is finally revealed. The Seven Warlords of the Sea appeared to be a group of nearly similar swordsmen, only to turn out to be nothing of the sort. When Kaido finally appeared in the story, he looked nothing like his silhouette. Even the newest Admiral, Ryokugyu, gave the impression of being joyful and fun-loving in his silhouetted appearances, only to be revealed to be a fervent and aggressive figure when he finally emerged properly. Even still, the God Knights' outlines sparked a flurry of hypotheses about Shanks' true identity – until their Supreme Leader appeared on the page.
Shanks Was Teased as a God Knight to Misdirect Theorists
One of the first and notable indications that Shanks has some relation to the Celestial Dragons was during his meeting with the Five Elders. He was granted permission to speak with them to discuss a certain pirate. Shanks is a Yonko, a balancer of the powers -- however, the World Government has shown little interest in balance and desires control. To allow Shanks a meeting based purely on his role as a Yonko makes no logical sense, implying he has some status beyond that of his piracy title.
During Monkey D. Dragon’s explanation of the God Knights, the silhouette image behind him showed a man who appeared dangerously similar to Shanks. He had the same cloak, a large sword at his hip, and an extended collar. This fueled the theory that Shanks was not only a Celestial Dragon but one of the God Knights charged with protecting Mary Geoise. However, this made little sense. If Shanks was a God Knight, he was playing the role of a double agent among the pirates. As such, another theory concerning Shanks’ twin emerged, due to the artwork of his facial scars sometimes not being present. This, too, seemed unlikely.
Shanks' Relation to the God Knights Gives Him So Much Influence
A far more likely scenario has been hinted at and theorized in One Piece Chapter 1086. Garling Figarland, a man capable of passing judgement on the Celestial Dragons, was revealed as the Supreme Leader of the God Knights. While this appeared to put an end to the hypothesis that Shanks was the God Knights' captain, the probability of his connection only grew. Garling has a similar aesthetic flair to Shanks, to the extent of having a similar presence, and wields a weapon similar to Shanks' sword, Gryphon.
Uta is another piece of evidence that supports the theory. The Five Elders assessed whether Uta was a member of the Figarland Family, which initially meant Shanks couldn't be because he adopted Uta. The Five Elders, on the other hand, may have thought Uta to be Shanks' biological daughter, hinting that he is a member of the Figarland Family. This would explain his enormous power with the World Government, such as his meeting with the Five Elders or his ability to halt the War of the Best.
While proof of Shanks' connection to the Celestial Dragons grows, his chances of becoming a God Knight have lessened since Garling's arrival. Based on the circumstantial evidence of One Piece: Red, Shanks' accomplishments throughout the series, and the introduction of Garling Figarland, it appears Shanks is either related to or a member of the Figarland family.