Embroidered patches are used to identify affiliation, rank and creed. They are a relatively inexpensive way for organizations to brand their members and can be attached to different kinds of clothing pretty easily.
There are very few organizations that take their embroidered patches as seriously as the motorcycle clubs tend to do. As with military patches, there is a method behind the wearing of patches given out by motorcycle clubs - the wearer needs to have earned those patches and been deemed worthy of their use.
Club patches designate affiliation but individual riders are also allowed to wear their own patches which speak of individual achievement or experience. Patches can tell a story and the history behind each patch worn by a rider would make an interesting book, if only we could actually get near enough to them to find out what those stories are.
What are Motorcycle Clubs?
Basically, motorcycle clubs consist of a group of people (usually men) who are avid motorcycle riders and are affiliated with a particular group or territory.
There are the so-called 99% (ninety-nine percent) who belong to family clubs and clubs affiliated with particular manufacturers or civic and social organizations. These motorcycle clubs are usually sanctioned by the AMA or American Motorcyclist Association and are considered as generally law-abiding.
Then there are the 1%ers (one-percenters) who are labeled as the "outlaws of the motorcycle world. The term one percenter came from a 1948 claim by the AMA that 99% of motorcycle clubs are law-abiding while the 1% are the ones that cause trouble.
Typical Motorcycle Club Outfit
The typical motorcycle club outfit consists of leather chaps over jeans, a leather or denim jacket or vest and an undershirt.
Some riders use bandannas to protect their faces during long rides and sunglasses to combat the heat and glare of the sun. Gloves are also used for added protection.
Embroidered patches are usually located on the front and back of the leather vest while those who use jackets may also use the sleeves for some of their patches.
The back part of the vest or jacket is where motorcycle clubs display their affiliation, position and territory. This is to make it easier to identify them while they are riding or engaged in other activities.
What are the types of back patches?
The first type of embroidered back patch is the one piece or single patch. This is used mostly by family or social clubs such as firefighter motorcycle clubs and H.O.Gs (Harley Davidson Owners Group).
The second type of embroidered back patch is the two-piece which usually consists of a top curved banner more commonly known as a "rocker" and a middle patch. These are used by a variety of clubs, however, some are either waiting for inclusion as a three-piece club or, for individuals, entry into a particular club, in which case the middle emblem is missing and a lower rocker used with the word "prospect" indicated.
The third type of back patch belongs to the traditional motorcycle clubs. It consists of three pieces, the top rocker, a large graphic middle patch and a lower rocker. Although most one-percenters use the three-piece design, this embroidered patch design is not exclusive to those clubs.
The top rocker displays the name of the motorcycle club, the large graphic in the middle is their insignia and the bottom rocker or third piece is one of three things: rank (such as sergeant-at-arms), territory/locale (such as California or Germany), or a saying like "I Ride with Jesus".
Aside from the outlaw clubs, there are also the groups which are affiliated with either bike manufacturers or with social and civic organizations. They also have their own embroidered motorcycle club patches which are featured on their gear.
- H.O.G. - The Harley Davidson Owners Group is a sponsored community marketing club for owners and enthusiasts of their brand of motorcycles. Their one-piece embroidered patch consists of an American eagle perched on top of a wheel with gold spokes which also doubles as the "O" in H.O.G. the whole thing is bordered at the bottom by a yellow gold banner spelling out Harley Owners Group. This has proven to be one of the most successful marketing efforts for the brand since studies show that members of H.O.G. spend 30% more than non-members on gear and motorcycle accessories & parts.
- Patriot Guard Riders - their patch proudly states "STANDING FOR THOSE WHO STOOD FOR US." They are not a chartered motorcycle club and therefore do not bear the patch MC. Their main purpose is to attend the funerals and show their respect for members of the US armed forces, police force and firefighters. They are a unique organization in that they do not require that all of their members also be riders. They are open to any individual who respects the sacrifices made to ensure their right to freedom and safety.
- Women in the Wind - they are the largest all-female motorcycle organization in the world. Founded in the 70s by Becky Brown, their black and white emblem shows a woman on a motorcycle with the wind running through her hair. They have created their own traditions like the annual River Run and the spoon-passing. The spoon passing was a tradition that began after a member had fallen off her bike while trying to stop her bike and get her pants untangled from the shift lever. Her husband then jokingly passed a spoon to her while they were eating at a McDonald's to signify that she should have stayed off her bike and stayed in the kitchen and a tradition was born!