Not all patches are cool, though. Some motorcycle patches should be avoided at all costs if you’re not affiliated with the gang.
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There are different types of patches you might want to avoid on your motorcycle leather jacket if you don’t know their meaning or history. You should also know the biker rules for wearing patches.
We’ve put together a list of 10 motorcycle patches to steer clear of when adorning your leather or denim vest, so check them out!
1. 1% Patches
Often stitched or embroidered in white or gold onto a black diamond or square background, the 1%er patch is one of the truest symbols of an outlaw.
The origins of this patch date back to the Hollister riots in July 1947:
The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) had sponsored an event known as the Gypsy Tour motorcycle rally in Hollister, California.
Things got out of hand during a celebration when some inebriated bikers took to the street, causing mischief and breaking a few storefront windows along the way.
The AMA purportedly released a statement that 99% of motorcycle club members were honest, law-abiding citizens, and only 1% were reckless outlaws.
Motorcycle clubs already on the outs with the AMA embraced the title of 1%ers, the name that would stick with outlaw clubs from then until the present day.
Nowadays the 1%er patch designates the bearers as members of outlaw MCs, against both society and its laws.
These patches are worn only by members of the Big 5 Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMG) and their worldwide affiliates.
2. White Cross (Iron or Maltese)
The Iron and Maltese crosses are one of the most widespread symbols emblazoned on:
- biker patches,
- and tattoos worldwide.
The meaning of a white cross might have a more disturbing meaning.
The white cross often takes the shape of the Iron or Maltese cross and sometimes has smoke or fog surrounding it.
A sworn member of a motorcycle club who has witnessed the unearthing of a grave, either to desecrate the body or steal something to wear, wears the white cross patch or pin.
While we understand some of the more illegal activities that outlaw MCs participate in, this one is mind-boggling.
Whether the meaning behind the white cross is literal or given to poking fun at outsiders for asking stupid questions, we suggest staying away from wearing white cross embroidered patches for any reason.
3. Red Cross
Like the White cross, a Red cross is simply the Iron or Maltese cross painted or stitched in red. This cross symbolizes a person who has participated in homosexual activity.
Most MCs disavow this and do not allow all persons in this category to become members.
It is likely that the Red cross is symbolic of the wearer’s acts in prison, where the lines are somewhat blurred.
4. Big 5 OMG Patches
We highly recommend for your safety and the safety of others (especially those you ride out with) that you never, ever wear any patches associated with the Hells Angels, Mongols, Outlaws, Bandidos, or Sons of Silence.
These 5 Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs) earn their patches over years of service to their MC. It will be taken as the ultimate sign of disrespect to their club, leadership, and charter if someone outside their brotherhood wears one of their patches.
We even suggest making sure that you don’t wear anything that comes close to:
- The Hell’s Angels’ winged skull
- The Mongols’ Ghengis Khan, reclining in shades on a motorcycle
- The Outlaws’ skull and pistons
- The Bandidos’ ‘fat Mexican’
- The Sons of Silence logo- the Anheuser-Busch logo that can be found on a bottle of Budweiser beer (if you like beer, get a Pabst Blue Ribbon patch instead!)
The Mongols motorcycle club members typically wear a patch featuring a Mongol warrior wearing sunglasses and riding a motorcycle.
5. Nazi Symbols
[Nothing to see here – you know what they look like]
Nazi regalia and symbols have been sported by outlaw motorcycle clubs since they returned from the defeat of Hitler’s Germany in the 1940s.
Originally, the Iron Cross medals, Swastika armbands, SS bolts, and Totenkopfs (Death’s Heads) were taken as trophies from fallen German soldiers.
These trophies from the battlefields of Europe were worn by the veterans that comprised the membership of early MCs.
As the next generation of predominantly white bikers embraced their fathers’ MC culture, the Nazi imagery became a middle finger to the dominant American culture, making the bikers feared by whites and people of color alike.
Early biker culture sprung from war veterans, looking for the same brotherhood and adrenaline-inducing experiences they found alongside other soldiers since World War One.
Yep, that long!
Although early MCs like the Hells Angels sported Nazi regalia with a dark sense of humor, the rising tie between MC culture and white supremacy brings a darker meaning to the use of National Socialist imagery.
Because of the international implications perpetrated by the Nazis, their symbols have fallen out of fashion with most MCs and bikers alike.
Please avoid wearing patches sporting Nazi imagery, even if it is only intended as a joke, or to stir up controversy.
6. Ace of Spades
The Ace of Spades patch is worn on the vest of a member of a motorcycle club (MC).
In MC culture, it can mark a person as having had a brush with death, either in the armed forces, motorcycle crashes, or street combat.
Alternately, it is an image that shows that the bearer is willing to go all the way for their club brothers or their country.
There are several noteworthy alterations to the original card design. The card can be red, black, white, or dark gray. The centerpiece spade can be replaced by a grim reaper wielding his trusty scythe.
In any case, you should probably be a real tough guy if you want to rock this patch- it means you are capable of taking any action needed. If you aren’t or don’t have some mean-muggin’ bikers to back you up, you might want to reconsider putting it in a visible place on your leathers.
Some bikers that are more involved with community support organizations have adopted the Ace of Spades patch to mean that they are willing to go far for the righteous cause of the charity work that they do, but it’s probably a patch you had better be able to defend clearly and quickly.
7. Skull & Crossbones
The skull and crossbones is an iconic-enough image that you can probably get away with rocking a gnarly, snarly, flaming skull on your vest or jacket, but you’d better be careful doing so.
Lots of bikers will wear the skull and crossbones patch on a shirt or jacket to remind us of our mortality. It also scares off the lames who might not understand our culture or gallows humor.
For motorcycle clubs involved in more nefarious activities, the skull and crossbones signify that the wearer has committed murder, either in prison or for the benefit/protection of their MC.
Likely worn by the sergeant-at-arms or enforcer classes of outlaw MCs, the skull and crossbones is a patch that must be earned by taking a life. Suffice to say, you don’t want to cross someone wearing the skull and crossbones on a bad day.
8. 13, 13 1/2, Or Diamond 13
This one is a little trickier because the number 13 is used across several cultures to ward off bad luck, and lots of people will wear it for different reasons.
In the case of motorcycle patch culture, the 13 is a sly representation of the 13th letter of the alphabet, ‘M’ which stands for marijuana.
A 13 patch means that the patch wearer enjoys or sells illicit substances.
The 13 as a placeholder for ‘M’ can also denote the use or sale of dangerous street drugs often sold or trafficked by outlaw MCs. The 13 1/2 patch (“Thirteen and a Half”) symbol may add that the biker is ready to take extensive risks and show involvement in lawless activity.
A Diamond 13 meaning is broader, and the diamond is what changes its meaning.
The original outlaw biker clubs weren’t necessarily criminal organizations, but clubs that weren’t recognized or legitimized by membership in the American Motorcycle Association.
Thus, the Diamond 13 was a patch to recognize the first 13 outlaw biker clubs of the 1930s.
The diamond still exists as an outlaw motorcycle patch to symbolize outlaw status in the modern sense- outside of the laws of society and the police.
Even if you still feel like rocking the unlucky number 13, stay away from wearing a Diamond 13 as it might have a deeper meaning for patched-in MC members.
A reader reached out and offered this insight:
In the early 1900’s, motorcycle racing became a very popular sport and although it was unregulated at the time, the sport grew in popularity with both fans and racers. Racing teams were formed and competed all over the United States. As the sport grew, more and more accidents were occurring. These accidents led to serious injurie .In 1924, the American Motorcyclist Association was created by the Motorcycle and Allied Trades Association.
The AMA set up racing guidelines, safety rules and enacted a fee that every racer and/or team had to pay. Many of the racing teams were discouraged by this and continued to hold races despite the AMA’s guidelines. The AMA referred to the teams that continued to race as Outlaws.The outlaw race teams created a diamond 13 patch which was to be symbolic of being anti AMA and it was given to the top 13 ranked racing clubs.In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, as many men returned from war, they found themselves longing for the brotherhood that they experienced across seas with other soldiers.
Motorcycle clubs became a popular avenue and many motorcycle clubs were formed in this period. Many of these clubs wore the diamond 13 patch as a “tip of the hat” to the humble beginnings of Outlaw Motorcycle Racing Clubs.
The diamond 13 then simply meant “outlaw.”On July 4th, 1947 an AMA sanctioned GYPSY TOUR motorcycle rally was held in Hollister California. More than 4000 motorcyclists flooded the event in the small town. Motorcycle clubs, such as the Boozefighters and the Pissed Off Bastards, also descended upon the town.
For the next couple of days, this rally got out of hand. Citizens and local police alike were frightened. This event became known as the Hollister Riot. After the mayhem, the AMA made a public announcement that 99% of motorcycle enthusiasts were good law-abiding citizens. Outlaw clubs took pride in being the “1 percent” and the 1% patch was born out of that statement.
9. D.F.F.L. Patch
D.F.F.L. is an acronym for ‘Dope Forever, Forever Loaded. In this sense, dope refers to illicit drugs. It’s another set of motorcycle vest patches to stay away from.
Much like the patch emblazoned with a ‘13,’ this patch signifies that the person wearing it enjoys these drugs and has them on their person at all times for personal use or for sale.
Runes are the ancient writing system used by the Vikings and later by the Third Reich to symbolize dedication to the white or Nordic ethnicity.
Runes and other Viking symbols have been used by white supremacist prison gangs and MCs, bringing them into the 21st century as a signal to others.
The runes commonly used on patches to symbolize that the person is a white supremacist are:
- The Life rune. Used to designate their connection to the “Aryan” or Nordic race.
- The Sonnenrad. An ancient symbol of the sun.
- The Valknot. (in the image above) Three triangles woven together to memorialize slain warriors of the White race.
11. The Vagos’ patch
The primary biker vest symbol of the Vagos Motorcycle Club features the nordic god Loki. Loki is often associated with mischief, transformation, and trickery. The depiction of Loki is usually accompanied by bright green colors, representative of the club’s colors.
It’s another of the motorcycle club patches you should avoid.
Hells Angels Patches Meaning
The Hells Angels use a variety of patches to signify membership, rank, and other aspects related to club affiliation.
Below are some of the most recognizable and commonly used patches and symbols by the Hells Angels:
12. Death Head Logo Meaning
The most recognizable symbol of the Hells Angels is their “Death Head” logo, depicting a winged skull. This logo is often worn as the center patch in a three-piece set, which also includes top and bottom rockers.
Finally, Dequiallo is one another patch to avoid wearing.
You’ll want to make sure to never associate with anyone who wears this Hell’s Angels patch.
A Dequiallo patch worn over the heart of a Hell’s Angel signifies a person who has confronted law enforcement officers during routine stops or arrests.
This patch, while a symbol of pride for the wearer, is sure to get anyone less confrontational in A LOT of trouble with any law enforcement officers they come in contact with.
Similar to this patch is the “Filthy Few” patch. The Filthy Few patch is given to club members who have fought on behalf of the club. Also an act you will not want to be associated with.
14. 81 Patch Meaning
Often worn by members, “81” stands for the letters “H” and “A,” the 8th and 1st letters of the alphabet respectively, symbolizing “Hells Angels.”
15. AFFA Patches Meaning
“AFFA” stands for “Angels Forever, Forever Angels,” reflecting lifelong membership in the club.
Likewise, “MFFM” means “Mongols Forever, Forever Mongols,” and will be worn by members of the Mongols motorcycle club – rivals of Hells Angels.
How Are Rocker Patches placed and positioned?
The “rocker” refers to a piece of the patch that members wear on their vests or jackets and the patch placement.
A three-piece patch, for instance, usually consists of a top rocker, a center patch, and a bottom rocker.
- Top Rocker: Typically displays the motorcycle club name and is placed at the upper part of the back of the jacket or vest.
- Center Patch: This often contains the club’s emblem or logo, and it is located in the center of the back of the jacket or vest. It’s the club’s patches.
- Bottom Rocker: Placed at the lower part of the back of the jacket or vest, this typically displays the local chapter’s location or territory, like a city or state.
Why Avoid Certain Motorcycle Patches?
The motorcycle patches to avoid are symbols that are associated with gangs. It’s important to know about these biker patches and their meaning before you stick something on the back of your motorcycle leather jacket or vest.
The 11 motorcycle patches we’ve put together on this list are often associated with problematic organizations that take themselves very seriously. They represent more than just offensive language, and you may draw unwanted attention by wearing them.
The outlaw MCs and OMGs are a small fraction of the motorcycle riders and enthusiasts you will ever come across on the road, but it is a good idea to stay away from any patches or imagery associated with their activities.
If a biker on a hog confronts you about a patch you might not know the full meaning behind, calmly and politely deescalate. The patch reveals if bikers are from a Harley owners group or members of the Hells Angels or similar.
If you are asked to remove a patch, or your biker vest, we advise doing so to prevent further trouble.
Know what motorcycle patches to avoid to ensure you stay safe while riding.