During an event in Hollister, California in 1947, an exaggerated news story that was later made into a movie called "The Wild One" starring Marlon Brando. The AMA wrote an article in their magazines stating that 99% of their members were law-abiding citizens and only "1%" are outlaws. This then began what today is known as 1%'ers. These clubs were then banned from all AMA events and functions.
In order to designate themselves as outside the rules of the AMA to all other clubs, the 1%'ers cut their club patches into 3 separate pieces. The top rocker identified the club name, the center identified the emblem or crest of the club, and the bottom rocker identified the city, town, or geographical location from which the club was located.
The term “colors” is used in referring to a motorcycle club's patch setup. Rockers on top and bottom, patch in the center. Because all three parts are separate, the term three-piece-patch is used.
Motorcycle clubs differ from motorcycling organizations in that they have a probationary "Prospecting" time required before the club members decide whether the individual (Prospect) will be accepted into the group and allowed to wear, or to "Fly" the colors of the club. A separate "cube" with the letters "MC" on it is designed to clarify and distinguish them as a club and not an organization.
RECOGNIZING CLUB PATCHES
1. A one-piece patch typically signifies a family club, riding club, AMA- sanctioned motorcycle club or political action/biker rights organization. Some require little more than filling out an application (which is actually a release of liability) and mailing a check.
2. A 2-Piece patch has many different meanings and variations as long as it's done with "respect" to other clubs. A two-piece patch may signify a motorcycle club in transition, awaiting approval from the dominant club(s) to become a three-piece patch. These clubs are sometimes, but not always, in the process of becoming an associate or support club. The hierarchy and traditions in the MC community are complex but not without purpose. They are valuable for maintaining order and avoiding trouble.
3. The 3-Piece patch normally identifies the club as a traditional motorcycle club(MC). A three-piece patch signifies that the club is not sanctioned by the AMA, but not necessarily a 1% club. With very few exceptions, the club has been approved by the dominant club in the state or area.
The three- piece patch is awarded in three parts as a prospective member earns the privilege to wear the full patch. A "hangaround" is someone who is eligible for membership and has been invited to attend club events and runs, but wears no part of the patch. If he is sponsored by a full member and approved by the club members he may wear the bottom rocker and is considered a "prospect". If he successfully completes the training period and is approved by 100% of the members, he is allowed to have the top rocker and the "center patch" or club insignia. His colors are then complete and he is considered to be a full member or "patch holder."
The traditional, or "old school," three-piece patch MC is one that adheres to established protocols, traditions and a code of conduct. Motorcycle clubs differ from riding clubs or other types of motorcycle organizations as they traditionally have "prospecting" time required before an individual is allowed to wear or "fly" the colors of the group. Most club colors will also have MC printed on the rocker or as an additional small, rectangular patch
4. The diamond patch with the 1% or 13 worn with the 3-Piece Patch is a 1% or support club.
5. A “nomad” rocker is worn only when a member continues to live a lifestyle within the definition of the word "Nomad"... A person with no fixed address.
6. Many national organizations in the 1980's joined their rockers in with their patch to avoid any designation or confusion within the biking community. An example of this would be the "Harley Owners Group" (HOG) or the Blue Knights.
A Few Points to Remember!
Never, under any circumstances, ever touch a member’s colors. Members take extreme pride in their colors and rightly so. They have gone through a rigorous and time honored tradition to "earn" their colors and therefore they treat their colors with the utmost respect and will protect and defend their colors at any and all costs.
Never ask a member to borrow or wear his jacket with their colors on it as you'll likely get a swat up the side of your head. The only time a non-member is permitted to wear the club's colors (and this varies from club to club) is ONLY when worn by a FEMALE passenger riding with the club member.
Always ask to take a photograph of a club member and/or of their bikes. If granted permission (and you usually will, providing you asked first) NEVER take a picture of the license plate area.
In the event you do start taking pictures of a "biker" on the road, do not be offended if he "flips you the bird" or gives you the "solo finger salute" as this is actually a common friendly gesture in the biker world.
MC members understand the meaning and importance of respect. They demand it for themselves and their club brothers. They provide it to patch holders outside of their own club until given a reason to do otherwise. Regardless of what's on your back, or how you got it, it is of the utmost importance to show an appropriate degree of respect to those who earned their colors in the old-school tradition.