Colors (motorcycling)

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A typical layout of patches making up a set of colors: 1) Top rocker – used for club name 2) Club logo plus MC patch 3) Bottom rocker – used for territory 4) 1% signifying "outlaw" intent 5) Club name or location 6) Office or rank held within club 7) Side patch

Colors are the insignia, or "patches", worn by motorcycle club members on cut-offs to identify membership of their club and territorial location.[1] Club patches have been worn by many different groups but, since the 1960s, have become largely synonymous with outlaw bikers.[2][3] They are regarded by many to symbolize an elite amongst motorcyclists and the style has been widely copied by other subcultures and commercialized.[4][5]

Colors are considered to represent "significant markers of the socialization" of new members to clubs, rank and present a dominant symbol of identity and marked with related symbolism.[6][7] They can be embroidered patches sewn onto clothing or stenciled in paint, the primary symbol being the "back-patch" of club's insignia or logo and generally remain the property of the club. Wearing such clothing is referred to as "flying one's colors".

Several motorcycle club members wearing their colors

Colors identify the rank of members within clubs from new members, from "prospects" to full members known as "patch-holders", and usually consist of a top and bottom circumferential badge called a "rocker" stating the club name and location, and a central logo of the club's insignia, with a fourth, smaller badge carrying the initials "MC" standing for "Motorcycle Club". They are used to create social bond and boundaries and, generally, belong to the clubs involved rather than the individual wearing them. The wearing of them can often lead individuals to be refused service at related businesses and bars.[8]

Many motorcyclists wearing colors are from "family oriented" motorcycling clubs chartered by the American Motorcyclist Association and wear one-piece patches to differentiate themselves from three piece patches of outlaw bikers. These generally do not state a territorial location.[8] The motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson notably adopted the style in its branding and community-building effort, the Harley Owners Group.[9]

The term has its roots in military history.[10]

Law and order colors and/or insignia[edit]

Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club colors. The Buffalo Soldiers are named after the famed 10th Cavalry regiment of the United States Army, formed on September 21, 1866.
Member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association at the dedication of a World War II memorial on Interstate 17 N. of Phoenix, AZ

As with outlaw motorcycle clubs visual identification of a member of an club is indicated by a specific large club patch or set of patches usually located in the middle of the back of a vest or jacket. The patch(es) may contain a club logo, the name of the club and other chapter identification.

In most motorcycle clubs the patch representing membership in the organization is often referred to as "the club colors" or simply "the colors".[11] Each club has rules on how the colors are treated and when it is proper to wear them. Well structured clubs have bylaws dictating the behavior of its members and thus the proper use of their colors.[12]


Tattoos may also come under the category of club colors.[13]


  1. ^ Cultural Criminology by Jeff Ferrell, Clinton Sanders
  2. ^ "Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs". Journal: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Gazette Volume: 49 Issue: 5 by D Day. 1987
  3. ^ Encyclopedia of Violence: Frequent, Commonplace, Unexpected By Margaret DiCanio
  4. ^ Harley-Davidson and Philosophy: Full-Throttle Aristotle by Bernard E. Rollin
  5. ^ Subcultures of Consumption: An Ethnography of the New Biker by JW Schouten & JH McAlexander
  6. ^ "The Arts of the Motorcycle: Biology, Culture, and Aesthetics in Technological Choice". Technology and Culture, Volume 41, Number 1, January 2000, pp. 99–115
  7. ^ "Leathers and Rolexs: The Symbolism and Values of the Motorcycle Club" by James F. Quinn, Deviant Behavior, Volume 30, Issue 3 April 2009 , pages 235–265
  8. ^ a b Over the Edge and Into the Abyss: The Communication of Organizational Identity in an Outlaw Motorcycle Club by Dulaney, William Lee. Florida State University
  9. ^ Schouten, John W.; McAlexander, James H. (June 1995), "Subcultures of consumption—an ethnography of the new bikers", Journal of Consumer Research (The University of Chicago Press) 22
  10. ^ The End of Internationalism: or World Governance? by J. Ørstrøm Møller, 2000
  11. ^ Smedman, Lisa (2007), From boneshakers to choppers: the rip-roaring history of motorcycles, Annick Press, pp. 57–60, ISBN 978-1-55451-016-0 
  12. ^ Amicitia Ad Vitum Motorcycle club
  13. ^ "Crime Prevention Gang Prevention". State's Attorney's Office. Retrieved 2009. 

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