Motorcycle patches can be a great way to express who you are and who you represent. I wear a patch on the back of my vest to represent what club I’m affiliated with. I also have patches that show my rank within the club. Before I joined the club, I wasn’t aware that there were certain patches that you should never wear for fun. Some of them can get you killed believe it or not.
Some biker patches are off-limits because they belong to a certain club and it has to be earned. Additionally, some clubs are involved in illegal activities, and wearing one of their patches may have you unknowingly associated with these clubs and then you become a target. Some of these clubs include the Hells Angels, Outlaws, and Mongols.
There are a lot of motorcycle patches that shouldn’t be worn unless you’re part of that club. If you’re thinking of putting a patch on your vest, you should be made aware of all of the patches that are off-limits. Fortunately for you, I’ve compiled this list so you can save yourself future headaches with legal battles.
What Are Biker Patches?
Biker patches are generally patches worn by members of a motorcycle club to represent who they are and what club they belong to. These patches are generally placed on the back of a vest in either 1, 2, or 3 pieces. However, there are some regular patches that you can purchase to put on the front of your vest to show who you are, your mood, style, and more. These aren’t a risk and some can be funny, serious, or in memoriam. Unfortunately, not all patches can be worn by the general public.
The Reasons You Should Avoid Wearing These Motorcycle Patches
There are several motorcycle patches that should never be worn by the average motorcycle rider. Some patches are associated with organizations that cause many issues and take themselves unbelievably seriously.
The Outlaw MCs and OMGs are just a small part of the motorcycle enthusiasts that you may come across on the road, but they’re problematic and it’s best to stay away from any patches or images that are associated with their activities.
If you’re wearing a patch that even looks remotely similar to theirs, they may ask you to remove it. I highly suggest listening to them to avoid any trouble. I’ve seen members strip a vest of its patches because they didn’t like that they were similar to theirs.
Being aware of which motorcycle patches you should avoid will ensure your safety while out on the open road.
1. Nazi Symbols
Nazi symbols have been associated with outlaw motorcycle clubs since the 1940’s when the Germans were defeated. Iron Cross medals, Swastika armbands, SS bolts, and Totenkopfs were taken as trophies from deceased German soldiers. These trophies were then worn by the veterans that made up the membership of early MCs.
The alter generations of predominantly white bikers embraced their fathers’ MC culture and then the Nazi symbol essentially became the middle finger to the American culture. This resulted in bikers being feared by the White community and people of color alike.
Early Hells ANgels members used to sport Nazi patches with a dark sense of humor. This was the tie that lined MC culture and white supremacy, giving a darker meaning to the use of National Socialist imagery.
Now, the Nazi symbols have been removed from MC fashion and bikers. So it’s important to avoid wearing any type of patch that supports Nazi imagery, even if it’s just intended as a joke or to start controversy. As far as I know, the only motorcycle club to use Nazi imagery is the Sadistic Souls MC which was founded in 2010.
Unless you’re a white supremacist or want to become a target for anti-white supremacy bikers, I suggest you stay away from these patches.
Runes were an ancient writing system that was used by the Vikings and later by the Third Reich to show dedication to the white or Nordic ethnicity. These symbols have been used by white supremacist prison gangs and MCs. They were brought all the way to the 21st century as a symbol to others.
There are several runes commonly used on patches to show that the person wearing it is a white supremacist. These include:
- The Life Rune: This shows dedication to the Aryan or Nordic race
- The Sonnenrad: This is an ancient symbol of the sun
- The Valknot: These are three triangles woven together to show memory to the slain warriors of the White rave.
Again, unless you’re a white supremacist or want to become a target of some kind for anti-white supremacists, stay away from these types of patches.
3. White Cross
The Iron and Maltese crosses are widespread symbols that can be found on biker patches, vests, jackets, shirts, and tattoos. The meaning of this white cross is quite disturbing and you should definitely never wear it. Anybody who has ever witnessed the unearthing of a grave, either to desecrate or steal something from the body to wear, will sport a white cross patch or pin.
I’m not sure who would want to do this for fun, but some members of motorcycle clubs do, especially 1 %ers. Those who wear this patch also want to express their rebellion, disobedience, and resistance against the government. You may also notice fog clouds surrounding the white cross on some of these patches. It could give either angelic vibes or have demonic interpretations.
The Iron Cross is the most famous German award and dates back to 1813 when the Prussian King Fredrick William III established it for the first time during the war for the liberation of Prussia from the troops of Napoleon. It was then acquired a distinctive feature of the Nazi army. It became a biker’s symbol in the late 40s early 50s when young people who returned to the US after WWII were disappointed with what they returned home to. They then used the white cross as a symbol of protest against the government.
4. Red Cross
As with the White cross, the Red cross is an Iron or Maltese cross painted or stitched in red. This symbolizes a person who has participated in or is currently participating in homosexual activity. It means that the wearer has explored homosexuality in prison. However, many motorcycle clubs will renounce members who are wearing this patch and will even refuse membershop to gay individuals.
There’s not a lot of history on this, but a lot of it is the same as the White cross because they’re the same thing.
The Dequiallo is a Hell’s Angels patch. This is worn over the heart of a Hell’s Angel and signifies a person who has confronted law enforcement during routine stops or arrests. This patch is a symbol of pride for the wearer. However, this patch is sure to get anybody less confrontational in serious trouble with law enforcement officers when they come in contact with them.
It should be pretty self-explanatory as to why you shouldn’t wear this patch. As cool as it may seem, wearing this patch will get you into trouble. This is why it’s only worn by the Hell’s Angels and should never be worn by a regular biker. If you encounter a Hell’s Angel, they may strip you of your patch, vest, or something even more sinister.
6. Big 5 OMG Patches
For your safety and the safety of those you ride with, I suggest you never wear any patches associated with the Hells Angels, Mongols, Outlaws, Bandidos, or Sons of Silence.
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs) are organizations whose members use their clubs for criminal activities. They’re highly structured criminal organizations whose members partake in violent crime, weapons trafficking, and drug trafficking. There are over 300 active OMGs within the US, ranging from single chapters with five or six members to hundreds of chapters with thousands of members around the globe.
These OMGs include the Hell’s Angels, Mongols, Bandidos, Outlaws, and Sons of Silence. They are a serious national domestic threat and partake in cross-border drug smuggling. If you try to sport one of these patches, it will be taken as the ultimate sign of disrespect to the club, leadership, and charter if somebody outside their brotherhood wears one of their patches or anything even remotely close to it.
You should avoid anything that comes close to these patches:
- Winged skull of the Hell’s Angels
- The Mongols’ Gehgis Khan reclining in shades on a motorcycle
- Skull and pistons worn by the Outlaws
- The Fat Mexican worn by the Bandidos
- The Anheuser-Busch logo used by the Sons of Silence
In addition to this, the Mongols are the biggest rival of the Hell’s Angels. If you’re riding in Southern California and you have a patch that represents either something close to what the Hell’s Angels or Mongols would wear, you may find yourself in trouble
7. Ace of Spades
The Ace of Spades patch represents somebody’s brush with death either in the armed forces, a motorcycle crash, or street combat. In addition to this, this symbol can show that the wearer is willing to go all the way for their club brothers or their country. This patch is also known as the “death card”. It can symbolize that an MC member is willing to kill for the group or has already done so.
Unless you’re a serious badass, I don’t suggest wearing this patch or anything that resembles it. You may be mistaken for somebody who is capable of taking action if needed. If you don’t have bikers who can back you up, don’t wear this patch on your leathers.
8. Skull & Crossbones
The skull & crossbones means “respect Few, Fear None”. It can also be a symbol that the member has killed for the group or mocked the death. This is a very standard patch that you could probably get away with wearing, but you have to be careful doing so.
Motorcycle clubs that are involved in more questionable activities wear the skull & crossbones to signify that whoever is wearing it had committed murder either in prison or for the benefit/protection of their club.
This patch is most likely worn by the sergeant-at-arms or enforcer classes of outlaw MCs. This must be earned by taking a life. If you come across a biker wearing this patch and they’re having a bad day, you may take the brunt of their anger.
I can’t say that you can’t wear this patch, but it’s advised that you don’t due to the meaning behind it. Some think the patch looks cool, but the meaning alone is more than enough to steer me away from it.
9. 13 or Diamond 13
The number 13 is a symbol of the letter M. It is often associated with the signs of Marijuana or Motorcycles. Bikers who wear this patch are either addicted ro drugs or use Marijuana. Additionally, the letter M can also be associated with Methamphetamine. Furthermore, the 13 can imply that outlaw MCs are selling or trafficking dangerous street drugs.
The diamond 13 patch has a broader meaning. This patch recognizes the first 13 outlaw biker clubs of the 1930s. You may still see the diamond 13 that symbolizes outlaw status in the modern world. It was created in Southern California as an anti-AMA common patch. It was used by early outlaw clubs to mark their distinctions from the AMA clubs and express their defiance of the AMA.
In the 1960s, the term 1% started catching on and the number 13 diamond patch shape began to be replaced with a 1% diamond patch. The outlaw motorcycle gangs started to replace the colors of the club to show the 1% patch as well. Many riders would wear the 13-diamond shape and 1%er patch together. When worn together, the 1% patch was worn as a square shape and the 13 patch was a diamond patch.
By the 1970s, the transition from the 13 to the 1% patch was in full swing and that’s when the bikers completely disregarded the 13 diamond patch and replaced it with the 1% patch in a diamond shape as part of their 3-piece patch.
If you’re sporting a 13 patch on your leathers, you’re announcing to the world that you are partaking in illegal activities including Marijuana, Methamphetamine, or other drug trafficking/use.
Unless you want to land yourself in jail or be subject to police searches, I don’t suggest you wear this type of patch.
10. D.F.F.L Patch
The D.F.F.L patch is an acronym for “Dope Forever, Forever Loaded”, which is an ode to illicit drugs. This is similar to the 13 patch signifying that the wearer enjoys drugs and has them on their person at all times for personal use or sale.
There’s not a lot of history on this patch, so my only suggestion would be to never wear this patch unless you plan to be stopped by law enforcement or other MCs looking for drugs.
This is one of the most mysterious motorcycle patches known to man and one you certainly should avoid at all costs. This patch is often found stitched in white or gold onto a black diamond or square background. It’s one of the truest symbols of an outlaw.
This patch dates back to the Hollister riots in July 1947. This was a celebration by the American Motorcycle Association that got out of hand. Some drunk bikers took to the street, causing mischief and breaking some storefront windows. The AMA released a statement that 99% of motorcycle clubs were honest, law-abiding citizens, and only 1% were reckless outlaws, hence the 1%er name.
Today, the 1%er patch signifies the bearer as a member of an outlaw MC that is also against both society and its laws. These patches are worn only by members of the Big 5 Outlaw Motorcycle Gand and their worldwide affiliates. The OMGs include the Hell’s Angels, Mongols, Bandidos, Outlaws, and Sons of Silence.
The 1 %ers are considered to be criminals and are not deemed a legal group of motorcyclists under the law. These patches are forbidden to be worn by citizens who aren’t part of an outlaw club. If you’re caught wearing it without being part of one of the OMGs, you could be stripped of the patch, and vest, and potentially have brought upon you and anybody riding with you.
What Are Some Good Biker Patches That You Can Wear?
Fortunately, there are tons of patches you can sport that show off who you are, what you believe in, and your attitudes toward certain things. Here are some of my favorites:
Lone Wolf No Clubs
This patch is a symbol of somebody who prefers to be independent of an organized motorcycle club. A person would wear this patch if they don’t want to be constrained by club rules. I actually have a couple of friends who wear this patch to show they’re not interested in joining a MC.
Loud Pipes Save Lives
I sport this sticker on my helmet, but it’s also available in a patch. It means that the loud sounds coming from a motorcycle’s exhaust can save their lives. You wouldn’t believe how many people can’t hear most motorcycles, resulting in avoidable accidents. Loud pipes can indicate a motorcycle coming and may ultimately lead to fewer motorcycle accidents.
If you know, you know. The DILLIGAF patch is another one of my favorites. It’s a symbol of those who just don’t give a (insert explicit language here). It’s a patch sported by millions of motorcycle riders across the globe. If you don’t care, it’s great to wear.
4. Live To Ride, Ride To Live
A see a lot of these on the road these days and I’ve found that they’re associated mostly with Harley owners. I don’t have one yet, but I think I might get one for my leathers. It means exactly what you think it does. You’re riding to live, and you live for riding. It’s for the bikers who live for riding their motorcycles and can’t imagine doing anything else.
5. Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost
This one could have many meanings, but to me, it means that not everybody who doesn’t know where they’re going is lost. A lot of times, I get on my bike and just ride. I don’t know where I’m going and I really don’t care, as long as I’m on my bike on the open road.
How To Put On Biker Patches
Putting on biker patches is quite simple if you have a sewing machine or can sew well by hand. If you don’t, you can use glue, but it has to be the right type. If you want to glue your patch on leather, you have to use permanent fabric glue.
If you plan to sew your patch on, it’s important to use nylon or polyester thread and a sturdy needle that can work on leather. You shouldn’t use cotton thread as it will leave multiple holes in your leather where the patch once was.
The proper way to sew the patch is to lay down your leather, and place it securely with pins and start sewing the patch. You can use this method with a sewing machine as well. Once you’re done sewing, remove the pins and it’s ready to wear.
Biker Patch Etiquette
Biker patch etiquette is important in the MC world. Since the shows Sons of Anarchy and Mayans have come out, more motorcycle enthusiasts are getting comrfotable with wearing patch-out vests or “cuts”. Here’s what to remember when it comes to biker patch etiquette:
- Always respect the patches of service men and women. Veteran patches will show where and when the biker served and the details of their combat.
- Never wear a patch of a motorcycle club that you don’t belong to. Every MC has its own rules for patching or wearing colors. You should never wear anything remotely close to a patch that’s worn by local, state, or national branches.
- Patches are earned. Never wear a three-piece patch if you’re not part of a club. These patches include the MC emblem, name, chapter, or location. The three pieces include the top rocker, bottom rocker, and club emblem in the center.
- Riding club patches can be bought. A riding club is a club for enthusiasts who enjoy riding with one another and will invite outsiders to join them for group rides, events, rallies, and charity events.
- You must conduct yourself responsibly. Whether you’re part of a MC or RC, it’s important to show respect to other riders with or without patches. MCs have a serious code of conduct within their own organizations as well as how the interact with other MCs.
- If you’re asked to remove a patch or vest, do it. If somebody insists that you remove a symbol that means something to them, respect their wishes. You may not be as dedicated to the patch as the guy who may have sweat or bled for his.
- Never touch another biker’s patches, cut, or colors. Any MC member who has patches have earned them. These patches will tell a story of leadership, brotherhood, initiation, and veteran status. They may also symbolize imprisonment, drug use, death, or other illegal activity. It is unbelievably disrespectful to touch another biker’s patches.
- Never wear Outlaw or 1%er patches unless you’re apart of that affiliation. These bikers are not law-abiding citizens and partake in criminal activities. They’re biker gangs, not MCs or RCs.
Not all patches are off-limits. Now that you know what patches to avoid and which ones could suit you well, you can safely ride the open road without the worry of being pulled over or stripped of your cut or patches.
One of the best ways to tell your story as a biker is to buy patches from rallies and organizations that you feel deeply about. Sturgis offers cool patches as well as the Harley Rendezvous. I’ve gotten a lot of my patches from the Harley Rendezvous.
I also suggest purchasing your patches from organizations that raise money for causes. If you feel that you really want to wear a 13 or Ace of Spades patch, then go for it. Although, I suggest you proceed with caution as there may be some negative results to this.
I’m William Guzenski, ASE certified master automobile technician & automotive expert. I love to attend race events and car shows throughout the country. I also loves to travel 40-foot motorhome, exploring abandoned mines and ghost towns. I’m currently building another car for Bonneville Salt Flats and will be campaigning a drag car at several events.