When you think of a biker, the classic image of Marlon Brando in “The Wild One” might spring to mind. His leather jacket featured a skull and crossed pistons on the back below the letters BRMC – Black Rebels Motorcycle Club.

His painted-on design was an early example of the biker jacket patches used to identify the club and gang colors today. Those patches have specific rules about who can wear them and how to place them.

Let’s take a look at the history of the patches and what they mean.

History of Biker Jacket Patches

When the American Motorcyclist Association started in the 1920s, they gave out awards at meetings for the best look. Clubs started making their own patches or embroidering the name of their club on their jacket.

After WWII, veterans started wearing their military gear to ride. The tough bomber jackets and boots were good for riding, and the leather biker jacket with patches became the standard.

A rowdy event in 1947 in Hollister, CA, led to the AMA disavowing what it called the 1 percent of bikers who cause problems. Those motorcycle clubs embraced the outlaw moniker and their 1-percenter designation. The original ”riot” was actually pretty tame, but the 1-percenter culture led to the more criminal element most associated with motorcycle gangs.

These outlaw clubs started designing their own patches and vest patch packages to mark themselves and their territory. Members had to earn the right to wear the colors.

Meanings of Biker Jacket Patches

So what do the patches on biker jackets mean, anyway? Most of the patches we associate with the culture serve as identification for the more than 500 large motorcycle gangs out there.

The patch packages are called the club’s colors, and with the outlaw groups, they include three patches. The upper rocker has the club name, while the lower one lists their territory. In the center is a single large patch that is the insignia or logo.

Only full members of the larger clubs can wear the colors, and the 1-percent diamond patch is restricted to the major outlaw groups. Most only wear their colors, the 1-percent patch, and a rank patch.

Other patches you might see on biker vests include activity patches for major rallies like Sturgis or charity events. The American flag and a POW/MIA patch might be worn by veterans. Number patches might relate to the letters of the club name or designate criminal activities.

Biker Jacket Patch Placement

The placement of patches varies with the group, but colors always go on the back. Some groups require they be on a sleeveless vest rather than a jacket.

You’ll find chapter patches on the front, usually opposite the name and rank patches.

Custom Bike Jacket Patches

If you’re starting your own club or chapter, you can have a custom patch designed for the group. Custom patches can memorialize a member or mark an activity like a bucket-list ride such as Tail of the Dragon.

You can create whatever you want and have it be exclusive to your group so when you ride, your group is identifiable. Choose your own size, shape, design, and backing type when making a custom patch.

Sport Your Patches Proudly

For any serious motorcycle rider, black leather covered in biker jacket patches holds serious history and allure. If you want to start your own patch collection, keep in mind the tips here about what patches mean and where they should be placed. You could even start your own club by designing your own custom biker jacket patches.

Check out other articles on our site for more cool fashion topics.