I’m Grid locked on L.A.’s 405 Fwy (while motorcycles lane split between stopped traffic) I daydream about starting my own motorcycle club, a chapter, you know, a biker gang (like minded motorcycle enthusiasts) Renegades who shatter the shackles of societal slavery and ride free (go for a Saturday motorcycle poker runs after our weekly 9 to 5) Hell bent for leather this gang (Attorneys, school teachers and fire personnel) will find hard riding, bad-ass places to go (on good suspensions and paved roads that lead to nice hotels) I’m going to call my biker gang The Voodoo Riders, sounds edgy and tough (just like us) I will get one of my chicks (a female rider with an MBA who’s the CEO a graphic design firm) to create a really cool design then have one of my homies (another Dad who owns the local Soccer Shop) sew our colors onto ripped up jean vests. Man we will look bad ass on our Harleys, riding down the road flying our colors… A car horn blast shatters my daydream and I creep forward 6 more feet.
Motorcycle club patches are not created from middle class daydreams. With long indelible histories, MC club patches are taken very, very seriously. The National President of the L.A. Based MC “Hessians” was kind enough to share a few thoughts on the subject. “A patch is our trademark it’s also a very visible target, He stated. “Emblazoned with bold letters intentionally, we claim responsibility for our actions, as should everyone else wearing their colors. Wearing a patch comes with certain privileges and expectations, administered and enforced by the club”.
A Checkered Past
The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) was founded in 1924 supported by manufacturers to promote motorcycle riding. They sanctioned groups of riders from the same area as motorcycle “clubs”. Some wore complete matching outfits with the name of their club stitched on the back of their jackets. This was the start of club patches. At the Hollister rally in 1947 a member of the Booze Fighters Motorcycle Club made headlines with an exaggerated news story. The AMA responded in their magazine stating that 99% of all of their members are law-abiding citizens and only 1% are outlaw. This began what is today known as Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs and one percenters. Clubs that were not sanctioned by the AMA and non-members of the AMA were banned from attending AMA events. In order to designate themselves as an outlaw club to all other clubs, the one percenters cut their patches into three separate pieces.
The term “colors” referrers to a motorcycle clubs’ patch set up. In the case of a 3 piece, one is placed over the top of the middle large graphic patch and one placed underneath it. The “rockers” are usually curved bars with the top bar designating the club name and the lower bar designating the location of the club. The two rockers are separate from the center field, a larger graphic type patch, hence the term three-piece patch. Most club “colors” will also have MC printed on the “rocker” or a separate “cube” patch with MC on it to further clarify it as a club rather than an organization. The 1% diamond is the key to identifying a hardcore 1%er. It is a patch in the shape of a diamond with “1%” on it. That is mostly worn on the left shoulder but is seen on the back of their colors also. Some MCs entitle a member to wear a “NOMAD” bottom rocker. This is only when that member continues to exhibit a lifestyle within the common definition of the word nomad.
The 2 Piece patch like the L.A Fire Hogs designates a Family Club and incorporates the top name rocker, the graphic and MC within one field. The bottom rocker designates their Fire Department, not territory. I have read that the original concept of a 2-part patch was that it was the first step in separating from the single patch in becoming a 3–part patch. Many national organizations in the early 1980’s set policy to unite their “rockers” with their patch and make it one piece to avoid any designation or confusion within the motorcycling club community. H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) and the Blue Knights (police officers) are an example of the one piece patch. Motorcycle clubs differ from motorcycling organizations as they traditionally have “prospecting” time required before the club members decide whether the individual will be accepted into the group and allowed to wear or “fly” the “colors” of the group. Wearing the AMA patch on the front of your colors/vest will identify you as a family club member. 1 per centers encourages the AMA patch to all clubs because they don’t and won’t wear one. Some clubs wear the AMA patch upside down in protest to being forced to wear it. There are many other patches some clubs wear that mean something only to that particular club.
In 1991 John O’Connor and Joe Tierra founded the L.A. Firehogs, the oldest fire fighters motorcycle club in America. Los Angeles has many overlapping clubs and when John decided to solidify the FireHogs with their own designated colors he knew that opening a dialog with other clubs was a good idea. Clubs individual colors are held in high regard and he knew it was a matter of respect. The Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs is a group that recognizes all local motorcycle chapters and clubs. Typically this is a politically motivated organization generally meeting regarding motorcycle laws and local events but all local clubs usually represented. In 1999 John attended, presented his FireHogs two-part family club patch and discussed their philosophies, bylaws and intentions. The Confederation has no authority over such matters but after the meeting suggestions from the other clubs was invaluable. Hells Angels colors are Red and White, the Vagos use green letters and graphics. Using similar colors as a neighboring club is not a good idea. Generally motorcycle clubs are very private about their personal activities and John was grateful that 1%ers and other clubs offered opinions, which he strictly adhered to.
I joined the Firehogs for their annual memorial run which began at Fire Station 27 in Hollywood. John discussed Firehogs history and handed out patches to two new members. With 181 members the L.A. Firehogs have raised over a quarter million dollars for Widows, Orphans and Disabled Fireman’s Fund and the LAFRA, L.A. Firemen’s Relief Association. One hundred percent of the proceeds are donated because of the volunteer efforts by Firehogs. After the memorial ceremony the club roared to brunch at the beach then converged at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills. An old movie ranch from the 1940’s it provided a spectacular location for vendor booths and a fantastic day of food, music and entertainment. A commendable effort by the 400 riders in attendance that day. With all the camaraderie within these brethren it’s easy to see why being part of a club is so enticing.
John O ‘Conner and rider friends
We humans are social animals and being part of a clan is natural instinct. Even if you don’t belong to a select club, whether riding sport bike’s or chopper’s you already belong to a special group just because you ride. We’ll acknowledge and assist each other any place, any time. With over one million paying members the H.O.G (Harley Owners Group) is the largest organization and provides patch and pin. The Blue Knights (Police Officer’s) runs second with over twenty thousand members. The Big Four are the four largest 1% clubs in the world. These include the Hells Angels, established 1948 with chapters in 15 countries. The Banditos, established in 1966. The Outlaws established 1935 and the Pagans, established in 1959. Who knows you may just see the Voodoo Riders rolling through your town yet.