Last update: July 10, 2014
|What are "Colors"?|
My Take on 1%ers & the Objective of this Page
Motorcyclists have made great strides in the past years to break free from the "Outlaw Biker" stereotype that has been perpetuated since "The Wild One", a movie supposedly recounting the July 4th "Biker Blowout" in Hollister, California, aired in the early 1950's. In a way, Marlon Brando's portrayal of the hot headed leader of the "outlaw" motorcycle club, the "Black Rebels M/C", became something of a benchmark for all of the other souls out there looking for an identity.
The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF), all of the separate ABATE's and Confederation of Clubs organized throughout the country have taken active roles in seeking parity for those of us who call ourselves Bikers. Traditionally, the equality sought by these organizations has centered around legislative issues such as helmet law proposals, bike bans from certain roads, and the relatively new topic of insurance discrimination. An issue that has been "sidestepped" to a degree is the issue concerning parity...equality...extended to motorcyclists for some of the simplest things that non-riders take for granted.
While there is no "Biker Bible" which I am aware of, it has been my experience that biker social hierarchy, based on level of commitment and depth of "brotherhood" typically puts 1%er clubs at the top (3 piece/ diamond), Motorcycle Clubs (3 piece) in the middle and Riding Clubs/ Associations (1 piece) third. This does not mean to say that a person belonging to a riding club cannot/ does not engage in unlawful acts, nor does it say that a person who is a 1%er must engage in unlawful acts. Also, the type of patch worn by a person does not necessarily mean that their commitment is any greater or lesser to the lifestyle as, say, a person who is a "Lone Wolf" (independent) who wears no patch. Read on to learn more.
A "three piece" patch is composed of two rockers (above and below) and a "main" (middle) patch and is usually indicative of an "outlaw" motorcycle club. Please notice that the "outlaw" moniker does NOT equate with 1%er (detailed below). The top patch, or "rocker" usually states the club's name and the bottom "rocker" usually denotes the area the club claims as their own. The center patch usually has the club's mark. This type of patch is indicative of a recognized "outlaw club" (a group of individuals sharing a common interest/ bond). An outlaw club typically upholds long-established traditions including the use of a prospecting period, having a male-dominated hierarchy, and employing "property of" patches for female members. Any "three piece" worth their salt will have contacted the dominant (or "Dom") 1%er club before patching up or opening a chapter and receiving their blessing. This is an act of respect for the Dom club in the area. A "blessing" in this case, may be as simple as an "OK" if the Dom doesn't really give a shit about the club or it may mean more, depending on the Dom club's attitude about "three piecers" rolling into to town (Other club affiliations, especially 1%er affiliations come into play). A second act of respect is to make every effort to contact the other established three piece clubs in the area to let them know who you are and what your mission is (if the club has one). While you do not have to HAVE the blessing of the established clubs in the area, it makes setting up shop MUCH more enjoyable.
are asked to join a three piece club, you will
usually begin as a "hang around" (allowed to ride
and interact with the club, but having NO voice in
club operations). If a club brother stands and
acts as your mentor, then you enter the "prospect"
phase. As a prospect, whatever you do reflects
directly on your mentor. It is a good idea to
really get to know all of your potential brothers
in the club during your "hang around", "Prospect*"
or "Probate*" period to find out if there are any
internal club problems or problems with other
clubs in the area. You do not want to "patch up"
only to find that the reason you were asked was
because the club needed to expand to face a
threat. The club's problems, and that of its
members, become YOUR problems.
A prospective member of the club. Usually
reserved for someone who has never been a member of
any club and is "earning" his way into the club
through his actions and demeanor. A prospect almost
always has a mentor (an established,
full-patched member of the club willing to educate the
prospect on protocol, club history, and other topics).
Any questions or concerns regarding the prospect
should be directed to the mentor.
A probationary member of the club.
Oftentimes, a "probie" or "probate" will have already
been a member of a different club and is in the
process of "patching over" from one club to
another.Oftentimes, they receive similar treatment and
education as a prospect, but their probationary time
of"- A "property of" patch is typically worn by
female members of an outlaw club/ 1% club to denote
membership in that club. Citizens are often taken
aback by the "property of" patch as, on the surface,
it denotes ownership of another. However, the
"property of" patch has a different meaning in the MC
world. Within this world, the "property of" patch
serves as a WARNING to others outside the club that
the female member wearing this patch is to be respected
the same as a fully patched male member and that the
female member warrants the same protections as
their male counterparts. This patch does not make the
female member equal within club hierarchy.
NOTE: You may observe a prospect being
ordered around by his club members or being tasked
with menial labor such as parking cars, tending bar,
etc. You may also hear club members refer to that
person as "Prospect!" when telling them to do
something. Unless you are a member of that club, DO
NOT refer to that person as "Prospect" unless/until a
member of that club has given you permission to do so,
and do not attempt to order that prospect around. He
is prospecting for his club brothers; not you. Remember
that citizens (people not wearing colors/
independents) AND "RC" (riding
club) members are "lower" in the club hierarchy
than a prospect. As an independent, RC member
or club member, always remember that RESPECT is a HUGE
expectation in this world. Don't act an ass and for
those who like to drink; Don't think getting drunk and
acting an ass will give you a "pass". If you tend to
"let loose" when drunk, the consequences of your
actions are the same as if you were sober. All boiled
down, if you have issues when drunk, then DON'T DRINK.
You may have more than a hang over to deal with the
Typically, a three piece patch with a smaller diamond, square, or circle patch containing the "1%" emblem somewhere on the "cut" (a denim vest with the arms/ collar "cut" off) denotes a recognized "One Percenter " club. (As above, but with much more commitment, sometimes to the point of signing over personal property to the club). This relatively small piece of material carries TONS of weight and is not to be dismissed! Members of 1%er clubs have / are willing to do whatever necessary to safeguard the club and its members. These guys have sacrificed everything for the club and will NOT be disrespected even if you are ignorant of club rules. You may see 1%ers at motorcycle expos selling support gear. They may seem friendly in that context, but do not assume that the same person you were making small talk with at the expo will react favorably to you if you come walking up to him and his brothers some other place. Allow the patch holder to address you first. Do not get bent if you are ignored. This is a very secretive, very select group of men. There is a reason for this. Do not expect to "jump in" with a 1%er club. Any 1%er club worth its salt will have a LONG "vetting" process which can take years of hanging around* with club members before being asked to prospect. You can find a decent synopsis of 1%er organization in this research paper on Scribd. A more "scholarly" paper titled "A Brief History of "Outlaw" Motorcycle Clubs" maintained at the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies website is also available.
* hang around- A hang around is someone, typically a civilian, who hangs around with and supports club members and their events.
"Riding Club, Group, Association"
Many riding groups and associations side-step the "club" controversy altogether by using a "one piece" patch with/ without either the "MC" (motorcycle club), "VMC" (veterans motorcycle club), or "RC" (riding club) designators or no designator at all. The "one piece" patch typically presents the same information as a three piece patch, but there are no separate rockers above/ below the "main". Most one piece patches are "bought" rather than "earned ", although one piece patch clubs flying the "MC" designator somewhere on the patch can have the same/ similar hierarchy and structure as a three piece club. Typically, the established operation in place by "clubbers" and "1%ers" is not in place in "one piece" riding clubs or are modified for easier access as a member of the group. Requirements such as acting as "prospect" or "probate" are usually not enforced. Additionally, females, usually kept as passengers in a club can operate a motorcycle and have all of the benefits of their male group members. This is a rarity in clubs and unheard of in 1%er clubs.
Most one piece groups use a "pay and play" procedure. You purchase the patch (RC's do not wear "Colors"), meet whatever criteria the group has, and you are a member. Since one piece patch groups are seen NOT as outlaw clubs, their members reside outside of the normal "club world". Even though, one piece members are still expected to show the same respect and decorum as anyone else when at club events. Vice versa, any club member or 1%er who does not have direct conflict with the PERSON wearing a one piece patch is expected to give an amount of respect. Notice that the person is important in this instance as one piece patch holders are NOT seen as belonging to a "club" and therefore are usually treated the same as a citizen or independent rider. RC groups are tasked with "policing" their members by reminding them that they are NOT "clubbers". It has been my experience that younger members, unfamiliar with this social hierarchy, fail to distinguish the difference between an MC and RC and if left un-checked, this can create major headaches for the other members of the RC (up to and including direct conflict with legitimate MC's in the area). There's nothing wrong in taking pride in your group's accomplishments, but it's good to remember your "place" within this social structure.
Click HERE for a huge collection of club colors from around the world.
So, if you've read THIS far, you have to decide for yourself how much of what I have written is bullshit and/ or not applicable to your area. If you are thinking that I'm full of it, before you let the cyber door smack you in the ass, do yourself a favor and look for someone locally who can answer your questions.
If you are new to motorcycling, or are thinking about wading deeper into the motorcycling "sub culture" then do yourself a favor... Keep your mouth shut, your ears open and look for a "silverback " (someone who has been around for awhile), and learn from them. Webpages and books can only inform ... You have to "be in the mix" to really learn about the brotherhood and there is always something new to learn. I have met some fascinating bikers (independents, associates, clubbers and one percenters) in my time and it is worth the effort to become knowledgeable about the people you are going to hang with. Remember to always show respect, don't show your ass and never try to run a game on anybody ... Bikers are smarter than most folks give them credit for.
If you are a 1%er, clubber or rider wishing to add to or correct any of the information found here, please feel free to do so.
So what constitutes a "Club"? After the close of World War II, many returning veterans were drawn to the brotherhood of motorcycling. At the time, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) was the main governing body which endorsed or sanctioned organized motorcycling events. It did not take long before the AMA was faced with the reality that some clubs partied a little harder than others, raced a little faster than others, and generally did not "conform" to the standards of the governing body. The AMA once defined the number of "nonconforming" clubs in America as those consisting of approximately 1% of the total motorcyclist population.
It didn't take long for the targeted clubs to adopt the 1% designation as a symbol of pride...Today, the so called "outlaw" club members are know as "One percenters". The U.S. Department of Justice defines one percenter clubs as organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises. If you've been paying attention to popular media, a relatively recent shift in terminology is taking place in which incidents involving club members, especially those belonging to the "big five" are no longer referred to as members of a motorcycle club, but are now referred to as belonging to a motorcycle gang. Even more upsetting is the newest shift by mainstream media to refer to club members who engage in illegal activities as domestic terrorists . I personally believe that the impact of 1%er clubs on the general public has been manipulated by law enforcement, blown out of proportion, in an attempt to bolster the powers of law enforcement in general. Using "strong" adjectives such as "gang" or "domestic terrorist" to define a group of individuals serves law enforcement well. As we found out post 9-11, civilians have a "sheep" attitude when they feel threatened. They herd closer together and hope the sheepdog defeats the mean ol' nasty wolves. Once the "sheeple" are afraid, they will gladly give up civil liberty in exchange for the (illusion) of safety.
It is ironic, at least to me, that the public's view of 1%er clubs is one of totally out-of-control, drunk, high, do-nothing derelicts who menace society while terrorizing small animals on their HOGS. In actuality, while it has been my personal experience that men who belong to 1%er clubs DO party hard from time to time, most are gainfully employed, most are "normal" (whatever that means), and MOST ALL who I have met have a highly defined sense of brotherhood and honor not found in general society.
The "Big Five" as identified by the Department of Justice
So what has become of the other 99% of motorcyclists in America? Certainly, a large percentage are just your normal everyday, shine on Saturday, and ride on Sunday motorcycle enthusiasts who profess no club participation, "outlaw" or otherwise. The remaining portion of motorcyclists DO belong to clubs or associations, however, you will be hard pressed to lump their type of club or association into the "outlaw" club classification.
My perception is that a club or association is a group of people who share similar interests, and come together to enjoy each others' company. To declare that this definition applies to motorcyclists ONLY would be way off the mark. So why do "no colors " policies target motorcyclists?
While I respect the right of an establishment to "police" their patrons, I also feel that "No Colors" policies are at their core discriminatory. The right of a private establishment to enforce a dress code has been addressed numerous times over the years. Most cases of discrimination brought as a result of "No Colors" policies have been filed under the Civil rights Act (42 USC, section1983). You can read the legal gobbledy goop of you wish, but my take on it is that you cannot deny a person rights which are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights, specifically rights guaranteed under the 1st Amendment (freedom of speech and association) and the 14th Amendment (equal protection under the law).
I think the issue becomes cloudy when you try to balance a private entity's right to service against a person's right to wear what they want and associate with whom they wish to associate. The right to open carry is a similar issue. Something like 33 states allow their citizens the right to carry a firearm "in the open" (strapped in a holster on their side, etc.). HOWEVER, establishments have the right to deny entry to patrons who are carrying a weapon. Are the people exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms being discriminated against because they can carry their weapon up to the door of an establishment but are barred from entry? I think so, but who am I?
Illinois law has attempted to address the "No Colors" issue this way:
Illinois Statute Section 68.5 (A) makes it an offence for any person to deny or refuse to another the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities of any public place of accommodation. Persons cannot be excluded therefrom so long as they conduct themselves in a peaceable and orderly manner. City of Chicago vs. Corney, 13 Ill. App. 2d 396, 142 N.E. 2d 160 (1957).
In addition, any person whose
excercise or enjoyment of rights secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States has been
interfered with, or attempted to be interfered with
may institute and prosecute a civil action for
injunctive and other appropriate equitable relief,
including the award of compensatory monetary
damages. The Supreme Court ruled in the case of
Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971)
that individuals have the constitutional
right under the First Amendment to wear clothing
which displays writings or designs. A
citizen has the right to move about freely and
peaceable in public places, without fear of being
discriminately removed therefrom. Nanez v.
Ritger, 304 F. Supp. 35-4 (E.D. WIS). In
addition, the right of an individual to
freedom of association has long been recognized
and protected by the United States Supreme Court.
Thus, a person's right to wear clothing of
his/her choice, as well as his/her right to belong
to any club or organization of his/her choice is
constitutionally protected, and persons or
establishments who discriminate on the basis of
clothing or club membership are subject to
I honestly do not know the "correct" answer to the "No Colors" dilemma. My personal choice, however is to NOT patronize ANY event, establishment, association, organization which posts a "NO COLORS" policy. This means I do not go to most area swap meets, and I do not patronize bars who are, in my mind "anti- biker". You have to do what YOU feel is right, but for me discrimination is discrimination, regardless of how it's packaged and whether it concerns my clothing, my friends or my firearm. I retain the right to associate with whomever I wish and I retain the right to wear whatever I want, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Illinois has decided in its infinite wisdom to "protect" me by taking my second amendment rights away... We in Illinois cannot (legally) open carry.
Saw this on eBay recently. DO NOT fall for this shit! Read the RED print... At least the seller is WARNING buyers that they can find their asses in a sling if they go out and play one percenter...
I hope you found the information contained here useful. There is an entire website dedicated to educating those about "all things biker". I encourage you to stop on by and learn more about this fun and fascinating subculture. Respects, Squirts