Society has a tendency to discriminate against certain people. Even with contradicting evidence, most people assume that all members of a subculture have the same traits, beliefs, and inclinations. To illustrate, consider the motorcycle subculture, which have been constantly accused of perpetuating rebellion and criminal behavior among its followers. Such claims, although true for some groups, are simply incorrect for most motorcycle clubs. Rather, examining how biker patches, an important aspect of motorcycling subculture, developed in parallel with motorcycle clubs, it should become obvious that the subculture actually emphasizes honor and freedom.
For background information, biker patches are attached by riders to their outfits as proof of their loyalty to their respective motorcycle groups. Commonly referred to as ”colors,” such patches are created from embroidered cloth and usually display the motorcycle club’s insignia. For a member to become eligible to ”fly the colors”, a term used for wearing the special patches, they must first demonstrate loyalty and passion. As they increase in rank, they earn the privilege to fly more of their club’s patches. This system demonstrates the patches’ significance in the motorcycle subculture.
The history of motorcycle clubs starts with the popularization of motorcycles. From the initial inferior models, various mechanical innovations made it possible to create better, more expensive motorcycles. Their high value made motorcycles a symbol of prestige and status, while their increased performance enabled hobbyists to use their motorcycles for longer trips.
As motorcycling gained more followers, several enthusiasts established the McCook Outlaws, which would go on to become the first motorcycle club. As more motorcycle clubs were established around the country, a central governing body called the American Motorcycling Association, or AMA, was formed to facilitate the organization of local groups of riding enthusiasts into more motorcycle clubs. Aside from reorganization, AMA also held contests and provided prizes to the clubs who had the most artistic outfits. In an attempt to win, motorcycle clubs started creating their own logos and placed them into what would become the first biker patches.
As time passed and motorcycling grew more popular, clubs felt the need to differentiate themselves from the rest of the motorcycling community. In this environment, the idea of using patches as symbols of loyalty to a single club was warmly welcomed. These patches became a source of pride for these members.
Some motorcycle clubs, in an effort to show their desire for greater freedom, decided to disassociate themselves from the AMA. When a statement claiming that 99% of AMA members are law-abiding citizens spread throughout the motorcyclist community, certain clubs found the opportunity to showcase their uniqueness by referring to themselves as 1%’ers, stating that they are part of the 1% implicitly referred to as “outlaws.” It should be noted that these clubs rarely had criminal intentions; rather, they simply wanted to become independent of the AMA.
To show their status as outlaw clubs, members of these clubs created the three-piece biker patches, which each consist of a central patch surrounded by two smaller patches called rockers. These patches differed significantly from the two-piece and one-piece patches that were used by AMA members and have become iconic aspects of the motorcycle subculture. In addition, members of 1%’er clubs typically wore another small diamond-shaped patch imprinted with the text “1%” or “13.”
Today, most clubs have now concentrated on contributing to the welfare of society and increasing their through participation in humanitarian efforts. Nevertheless, the spirit of the motorcycle subculture still burns inside their hearts and their respect of biker patches has remained with them throughout the years, a testament to their time-honored traditions and their pursuit of freedom.