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Cut offs being worn by bikers (top), metalheads (middle) and punks (bottom)

A cut-off, cut, kutte or battle vest (when sleeveless) and a battle jacket or patch jacket (regardless of sleeves),[1][2] is a jacket adorned with patches related to the wearer's subculture or general interests. Patch jackets are generally made using denim jackets or leather jackets, often times with the sleeves cut off. They are a prominent part of various subcultures including bikers, metalheads and punks. In music subcultures, they are generally worn with patches for bands which the wearer is a fan of, whereas in the biker subculture, "colours" signify the wearer's motorcycle club and their rank within it.

Patch jackets have their origins in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, where airmen would sew patches onto their regulation flight jackets. Upon returning from war, the practice was continued by former airmen who became a part of motorcycle clubs. The influence of the biker subculture then led the garments adoption by various other youth subcultures in the following decades. The garment because popular with punks and metalheads during the 1970s and 1980s.


A flight jacket adorned with patches by a 1950s United States airman

During World War II, members of the United States Army Air Corps began to decorate their regulation flight jackets with patches of successful missions as well as cartoon characters and pin-up models. Following the war, many former airmen began motorcycling and became members of motorcycle clubs, where they continued this practice. Cut offs and motorcycling soon spread internationally, being taken up by the rocker subculture in the United Kingdom and the Bōsōzoku in Japan. Cut offs' ties to motorcycling led to them becoming seen as a sign of rebellion. Because of this, they were soon adopted by various youth subcultures, including the skinhead, heavy metal and punk subcultures.[3]

Motorcycle clubs[edit]

Biker's vintage cut-off adorned with club badges

Upon returning from World War II, many former airmen began motorcycling. These bikers quickly began wearing denim jackets with their sleeves cut off and sewing on patches to display their associated motorcycle club, called colors. In outlaw motorcycle clubs, a cut off's colours are indicative of the wear's rank within the club, where the higher number of club-related patches represents a higher rank. In contrast, non-outlaw motorcycle clubs often only have one large back patch. As time passed, many bikers began instead making cut offs from leather jackets, rather than denim.[2]

Cut-offs are usually made from leather or denim jackets with their sleeves removed, or cut very short, and often adorned with patches, badges and painted artwork that display motorcycle club affiliations known as colours,[4][5] or alternatively band names, political affiliations, beliefs, or sexual acts performed.[6]

Heavy metal[edit]

Metalheads adopted cut offs in the 1970s, beginning with bikers who began to wear patches for heavy metal bands.[3] During the 1970s, many patches were embroidered by the wearer, as most bands did not produce them for purchase.[7] Metalheads popularized the name "battle jacket" for the garment during the 1980s, when it became commonplace for band patches to be sold at live performances.[8] This decade was when the garment was most popular in metal, being commonplace during the new wave of British heavy metal and the early thrash metal scenes.[9] Battle jacket decreased in popularity in the metal subculture during the 1990s as the subculture became increasingly influenced by fashions of grunge and nu metal. However, battle jackets continued to be worn in black metal and death metal scenes, leading to their eventual re-popularisation in the 2000s.[10]


Battle jackets entered punk during the 1970s and 1980s. Often using a leather motorcycle jacket as a base, band logos are more likely to be painted onto the jacket than sewn on using a patch. They also often feature chains, studs and political slogans.[11]


  1. ^ Herbst, Jan-Peter (31 August 2023). The Cambridge Companion to Metal Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 202. A battle jacket – also variously known as a battle vest, patch jacket, cut-off or Kutte...
  2. ^ a b Muzquiz, Albert. "The Rough History of Biker Cuts". Retrieved 5 May 2024.
  3. ^ a b O'Hagan, Lauren Alex (2022). ""My Musical Armor": Exploring Metalhead Identity through the Battle Jacket". Rock Music Studies. 9 (1): 37. The battle jacket is most strongly associated with the biker scene and the motorcycle club jackets of its members. Motorcycle clubs were largely established across the US following the Second World War. Many of its members were ex-US Airmen who had tended to decorate their flight jackets with pin-up girls, cartoon characters, and bomb decals for each successful mission. These Airmen started to recontextualize the practice, using cutoff jackets to mark their club affiliation, geographical territory, and individual role and rank within the group. Similar conventions also sprung up in Japan amongst the Bosozuku biker gangs and in Britain amongst the Rockers and Ton-up Boys. Motorcycle jackets became associated with rebelliousness and, thus, were soon adopted and customized by various youth movements (e.g. punks, skinheads) as external identifiers. As many bikers were also metalheads, they began to personalize their denim and leather jackets with band patches. And so, the battle jacket was born.
  4. ^ Lyman, Michael D. (1989). Gangland: Drug trafficking by organized criminals.
  5. ^ Hendley, Nate. American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia.
  6. ^ Hummer, Don. Handbook of Police Administration. p. 276.
  7. ^ Herbst, Jan-Peter (31 August 2023). The Cambridge Companion to Metal Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 206. Whilst it is difficult to say for certain when battle jacket-making first started, it seems to have been well established by the time heavy metal music became widely popular in the 1970s. Methods of customisation around this time included hand embroidery, which was practised by fans as a way of rendering band logos on their jackets in the absence of readily available commercial patches.15 Once bands began to cater to the demand for patches, these became a way of commemorating particular gigs and tours, with unique editions sold at merchandise stands in concert venues.
  8. ^ O'Hagan, Lauren Alex (2022). ""My Musical Armor": Exploring Metalhead Identity through the Battle Jacket". Rock Music Studies. 9 (1): 37–38. Metal fans born in the 1950s and 1960s state that the battle jacket was known as a "cutoff" or "kutte" (from the German for cutoff) throughout the 1970s and that they first heard the term "battle jacket" employed in the 1980s as its popularity grew and patches started to be sold at concerts. Fans bought these patches and sewed them onto their jackets as proof that they attended the concert.
  9. ^ Herbst, Jan-Peter (31 August 2023). The Cambridge Companion to Metal Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 207. Whilst battle jacket-making has remained an important part of metal subcultures since the practice was first established, there have been periods and genres of metal in which it has been particularly popular. The early 1980s was one such period when genres such as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) in the UK and thrash metal in the USA both saw an emphasis on battle jackets amongst musicians and fans.
  10. ^ Herbst, Jan-Peter (31 August 2023). The Cambridge Companion to Metal Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 276. During the 1990s, battle jackets were perhaps less common, as the genres of nu metal and grunge changed the style and expression of metal fans, although even during this period, jacket customisation practices persisted in extreme genres such as black metal and death metal. After the turn of the millennium, the popularity of previous styles of metal grew once more, and battle jacket-making enjoyed a renaissance, which has continued until now.
  11. ^ Herbst, Jan-Peter (31 August 2023). The Cambridge Companion to Metal Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 207. During the 1970s and 1980s, punks reappropriated leather biker jackets, which were decorated with hand-painted logos and slogans, studs, chains and other additions.24 A number of postpunk subcultures, such as goths and crust punks, also used hand-painting on leather jackets as a key mode of individuation.