Home History What are the Origins of Patches?

What are the Origins of Patches?

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Besides jeans and a black t-shirt, a biker usually wears a vest or jacket with some kind of embroidered patch or many of them. These embroidered patches usually show off a favored political statement, a show of patriotism, club membership, designs that depict the biker’s lifestyle or places visited. So, how did this tradition start? The origin of motorcycle patches can be traced all the way back to the 1910s when the American Motorcyclist Association or AMA was founded. Members of this group would gather at the AMA events and have jackets or vests with the club name or logo and the region they came from, embroidered by hand, on their leather jackets.

In 1947, a bunch of veterans from World War II rode into the small town of Hollister, California and caused a huge disturbance with their loud motorcycles, fighting and drinking. After this incident, the AMA released a statement that claimed that the bikers who caused this kind of problem only represent 1% of the motorcycle enthusiasts. This is where the term and patch 1% er started being associated with outlaw biker clubs that soon formed in the early 1950s.

These clubs came up with their own patches and “Colors’, which were only worn by the members of their club, to show proof of membership and their territory. A full member, also known as a patch holder would have curved patch on the back of their jacket, known as the top rocket, stating the club name, a central patch with the club’s logo or insignia, a lower rocker stating the club’s territory and finally the fourth smaller badge next to the logo with the initials “MC” which stand for Motorcycle Club. The patches worn by these biker clubs have to be earned and are taken very seriously by their members. People who have disrespected club patches have been seriously hurt in the past.

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Biker patch etiquette

In all biker clubs, members are required to follow patch etiquette at all times. Some guidelines determine a member’s behavior while wearing their MC’s patches. For example, a biker may wear the colors of his club outside of the club’s territory, but must not wear within the territory of other clubs.

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Some clubs also do not allow to wear colors while driving a car. A biker who hast lost their membership from the biker club is obligated to surrender their colors. Even if a biker leaves a motorcycle club voluntarily or unannounced must still leave their colors behind. This is to prevent bikers from wearing the colors and patches of a motorcycle club as old uniforms.

However, rules can differentiate from club to club. Some clubs require their members to only wear the patches on a sleeveless vest. While other clubs, do not mind if you are wearing your patches on a leather jacket, vest or even a denim jacket. A member of a club must never borrow his jacket to a non-member. The only time a non-member is allowed to wear a club’s colors and patches is when a female passenger is riding together with a member of the club.


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