by FRANK "RAGS" RAGO
Leather jackets and the motorcycle have been together since the invention of the motorcycle. Many of us have them hanging on coat hooks at the ready for our very next ride. Some take pride in decorating their jackets with patches, studs, pins, and chains while others like myself, choose to keep them basic. Let’s go back into history and find out a little bit about our jacket of choice.
Leather coats and jackets have been popular through the ages for a variety of reasons, the one major reason is that it prevents wind and keeps you warm. If the jacket has been wiped down with oil, animal fat, or wax it was also a great way to stay dry. But they really did not come into their popularity until we took to the air in planes during war time. 1910 during World War I we sent our airmen into the air in contraptions wearing fleece lined brown leather flight jackets. These flight jackets were used since flying aircraft exposed the pilot to extreme climate conditions found at high altitudes.
These jackets having successfully protected our servicemen in World War I were also found on our World War II pilots. The only difference was that in WWII they had been re-named from Flight Jackets to Bomber Jackets. At this point the legacy continued only not in the skies but rather over our country roads and highways on the backs of motorcycle enthusiasts.
Then with the making of the movie “The Wild One” in 1953, the bomber jackets got dyed black and it started a new era with a new image. The Wild One was a movie loosely based on the town of Hollister California during the 1947 AMA Gypsy tour motorcycle event / riot. In the movie “Johny” portrayed by Marlon Brando was the leader of the Black Rebels MC that takes over a small town much like Hollister. Johny made the black leather jacket famous.
At that point the black leather jacket was not only being used for protection while riding the motorcycle, but also as a symbol of the “Bad Boy” biker. These black leather jackets were being decorated with MC club patches, pins, and biker rankings. As soon as the MC club patches adorned the jackets they became colors and like ones motorcycle, you did not screw around with ones colors.
Flash forward 60 years and now you have motorcycle jackets made of kevlar and different synthetic products. The leather is not needed since todays jackets have armor plates that can be inserted and removed as required. Jackets have safety precautions where if there is a sudden jolt a protective bag expands and protects you from impact. But with all this fancy shmancy stuff, the black leather jacket still prevails as the number one motorcycle jacket.
Now that you know a little history about that old piece of leather hanging on that hook, lets review patches and the do’s and don’ts. With the increased popularity of motorcycles came the increase popularity of motorcycle clubs. Everybody wants a patch on their back and to belong to the brotherhood in the wind. That is great, but you have to use common sense. There are many organized and established motorcycle clubs that are on the road. Some of these clubs are nothing more than mom and pop clubs that get together for poker runs and charity rides. Then there are the other clubs that take the biker lifestyle a bit more seriously. You can tell these club members by their jackets. Let’s talk about their jackets.
On the back of the jacket across the top between the shoulders will be the Top Rocker. This is usually the name of the motorcycle club. Right dead in the center of the back will be the club colors aka insignia. Sometimes it will have MC next to it with stands for motorcycle club, dugh.. On the bottom of the jacket will be the Bottom Rocker. This rocker indicates the chapter and territory of the MC member.
The reason I am telling you this is that when you decide to decorate your leather jacket, please use caution. If you use another MC colors or name you could run into a little trouble, especially when you add that bottom rocker. A little research and homework will keep you in the clear when riding and wearing “Your” customized patched black leather jacket. If you choose to start a club, follow the rules and do your homework prior to designing and adding colors.
If you choose to put a bottom rocker on your jacket, be aware that you may be asked to remove it if you are riding through an area that another motorcycle club has already claimed. If you are asked to take off your jacket, use common sense and have respect for the existing club. Many biker clubs who do have the bottom rockers will take their colors off while riding through another clubs area. This action can save you a lot of headaches and maybe even your life.
A few other hints, if you are not in a MC and are not a 1%, do not put that patch on your jackets. You can sit there and debate the 1% meaning, but in the end that patch could ruin your whole day if you are not willing to do what that patch stands for. I would also stay away from putting a Lone Wolf patch on the jacket, do you really want to advertise that you are a lone?
Also, be prepared to not get your ego hurt if you are asked to take off your colors prior to entering an establishment. This sucks, you may not even belong to a club and they will ask you to remove the jacket. Best bet is to go to a different establishment, take off the jacket and enter, or throw a fit with the chance of a big bouncer dotting your eye.
I keep my black leather jacket plain, I do however have a denim vest that has a USMC patch on the back with a 1st Recon BN patch on one side and a POW MIA patch on the other side. The name of the game is respect. Give it and you will get it.