MC Patch Rules

30 comments by Damien Heenan

Motorcycle Club (MC) patches are earned through club membership and provide specific information about the rider’s club and chapter.

An MC patch can come in three variations: single, two-piece, and three-piece, so named based on the number of elements it contains. For example, a three-piece patch has three elements – Center Logo, Top Rocker, and Bottom Rocker.

As you might guess, each variation has a deeper meaning:

  • A single patch is a show of affiliation with a motorcycle club. It usually contains the club’s name, logo, and region. When you see a single patch, it may signify that the club is sanctioned by the American Motorcycles Association (AMA).
  • A two-piece patch can show a charter waiting for approval from a motorcycle club. The top piece or “Top Rocker” has the club’s name, while the bottom piece (“Bottom Rocker”) shows the logo of the MC. Once the club gives approval, riders with two-piece patches will usually progress to three-piece variants.
  • A three-piece motorcycle patch is the highest order of Motorcycle Club patches – it has a Top Rocker (Club Name), Center Logo (Club emblem), and a Bottom Rocker (Club Location).

A rider wearing a two-piece patch is considered a potential member; those with three-piece patches are already FULL member – which means they’re a part of an approved club with all procedures, customs, and codes of conduct that go along with that position.

Note, however, that a club represented by the three-piece patch doesn’t have to be sanctioned by the AMA. In fact, three-piece patches are regularly used by those clubs the American Motorcycle Association once said fell outside the 99% of clubs made up of strictly law-abiding citizens.

Now the one, two, and three-piece patches have been explained, let’s move on to some specific rules that every rider should know.

The Rules of Wearing Patches

Since patches communicate information about club membership, getting caught wearing the wrong patch can be interpreted as disrespect or, worse, an act of provocation. That’s precisely why wearing motorcycle patches comes with plenty of rules.

1. Club Patches Are Earned

If there’s one critical rule you should remember, it’s this - when it comes to MC patches, you should only wear them if you’ve earned them.

All members of motorcycle clubs take pride in belonging to their organization and many are extremely loyal to their clubs. This level of pride stems from the vetting process each member has to go through before getting accepted into the club. There’s a strong loyalty to that club based on the companionship and all the miles that club members covered together.

This means MC members do not appreciate it when outsiders are wearing their colors. In fact, putting on an MC patch without permission could even be dangerous as you may provoke actual members. So, if you’re not sure about whether a patch is okay for you to wear, check first with a local COC or Motorcycle Rights association.

2. Respect Veteran Patches

People who served in the armed forces have specific patches displaying the details of their service. These patches are universally respected, especially because the veteran culture is one of the core foundations of biker life.

Any disrespect towards veteran patches will be seen as a severe transgression. It should go without saying that wearing such a patch if you’ve never served is especially offensive. This rule applies to every rider out there, whether they’re a club member or not.

3. Don’t Touch Other Rider’s Patches

Along with being a personal record of someone’s motorcycling life story, patches often become a source of superstitious beliefs. Many lifers (MC members for life) proudly wear their designations until they reach that final stop sign in the sky, with many asking to be buried in their vests.

Patches commemorate a biker’s initiation, veteran status, and brotherhood with other riders from their club. Naturally, proud members don’t want somebody else’s fingers on those valuable symbols. That’s why touching another rider’s patches just isn’t done. In fact, it’s considered a blatantly disrespectful.

Important - this “Do Not Touch” rule also goes for colors and vests, as these essentially belong to the MC more than the individual rider. Touching any of those items shows disrespect to the entire club.

4. Remove Your Patches if Asked

By now you’re starting to understand that patches are much more than a bit of cloth and colored thread. The back of a jacket could very well represent a life’s worth of friendship, joy, and meaning to the person wearing it.

You may be approached by a motorcycle club member about your patches. If you are, remain calm and have a conversation with them. It is likely you will learn what to avoid and be on good terms at the end with the club and member by doing this.

Being respectful of the sacrifices club members make to earn their patches will go a long way in any encounter you have with them. That’s why it is common to hear the phrase “You’ve got to give respect to get respect”.

5. Don’t Wear 1%er or Outlaw Patches

The term “outlaw” in terms of MCs originally referred to bikers not affiliated with the AMA. Outlaw clubs were essentially unofficial MCs, but that was the most you could say about them.

The definition of an outlaw club is much different now – and most take it to mean a club that operates according to its own standards of conduct when it comes of society’s norms and regulations. (Such clubs are sometimes referred to as “one-percenters.”)

Wearing a 1%er or outlaw patch identifies you as a member of such a club. If you’re not a member, sporting such patches can be extremely dangerous for a number of reasons.

First, police officers will immediately consider you with suspicion. Now, you’ll likely have the chance to explain the mistake to law-enforcement officers. But you might not be as lucky members of that club notice you. If true one-percenters see you wearing their patch, they could recognize you as an impostor or a member of a rival club.

In either case, the situation could end up in conflict and violence – and who needs that? The best way to avoid trouble is to simply NEVER wear any club patch you haven’t earned.  Period.

6. Keep MC Symbols Where They Belong

Whether it’s a legal motorcycle club or a one-percenter organization, club patches should only get placed on the right pieces of gear. The only correct way to wear an MC patch is on your vest or jacket. You should NEVER stray from this rule.  (This goes for stickers with MC logos or lettering that you might be tempted to place on a fuel tank or saddlebag – if you haven’t earned ‘em, don’t use ‘em.)

Of course, you’ll want a rockin’ great vest for those patches. After all, what’s the point of decking yourself with colorful, cool patches if the outfit itself won’t last? That’s why you should check out the offer at Eagle Leather and get equipped with the right vest.

Which Patches Can You Wear Safely?

Now you might be thinking that patches are off-limits to anyone who isn’t a member of a motorcycle club. Luckily, that’s not the case.

While wearing an MC patch isn’t cool, Rider Club (RC) patches are definitely A-OK.

Rider clubs (RC) are more relaxed biker groups made primarily for socializing and sharing the joy of the ride with others. These clubs provide you with plenty of opportunities and events like tours, fundraisers, races, or rallies.

These kinds of events, which aren’t MC-specific, usually have a massive selection of motorcycle patches for sale. The mere fact you can buy the patches at the event means they’re okay to use – otherwise, they likely wouldn’t be available for legal sale.

Besides RC patches, you can also wear a lone wolf patch. These signify that you’re not a member of any clubs or associated with them. By wearing a lone wolf patch, you’re telling other riders that you’re independent and follow a riding schedule of your own.

Other riders won’t see lone wolf patches as problematic, provocative, or disrespectful. To put it differently, you can wear these patches without the risk of offending anyone or their club.

Read our article on "The Inside Scoop on Motorcycle Patches" and our article on "What Patches to Avoid" for more information.

Did we miss anything, please leave a comment below.

This article was edited to remove the incorrect information about the Nomad patch. We appreciate the comments that were made informing us of this error, and would also like to thank everyone who has commented. 


  • Ash

    Watch out wearing lone wolf or nomad patches. Lone Wolf is an mc, and nomad is like a rank in mc’s.

  • Patch holder

    So to clarify about some of the Nomad patch questions, it’s not a smart idea to wear a Nomad patch if you are not a part of a MC or riding organization. Nomads are a very high position with some clubs and can be taken seriously if you come across the wrong type of person. For those asking about styling custom patches in the place of rockers, it’s your vest do as you will, just try and not copy what a club has already done so do some research first. Personally, I would avoid styling your vest to look like a club vest just to avoid any potential unnecessary circumstances, and besides it’s your own vest so why not make personal to you instead of trying to look like everybody else?

  • Chappy

    We did not see mentioned the Christian Motorcyclists Association, nor The Black Sheep
    We are not 1% we are motorcycle ministries riding for the Son , Jesus Christ . As a CMA member for years now ,I personally have never been disrespected by any MC. nor have I lacked respect for any.
    CMA , we take the gospel to mainly the Motorcycle community , but not specifically .
    We share the Truth of Jesus Christ the Living Risen Son of God , by serving at rallies , Charity rides ,laying of Wreaths , taking the Word of God to the World one heart at a time.
    Check us out , come ride with us .
    Lord bless.

  • The Biker Somm

    Every patchholder I know considers the “lone wolf” patches and such to be a sideways insult. It doesn’t rise to the level of a punishable offense, but to say that they don’t see it as anything disrespectful is not really correct.

  • Fuswv

    I’m a Nomad….former chapter prez….before I got voted in as a patch member….I wore patches that identified who I was—ie Native American, Valkryie Rider….but DEFINITELY….I DID NOT wear a Nomad rocker, nor MC tab…not even a name tab…my advice don’t ‘play’ biker…become one…learn protocol…learn how to ride hard and fast—in formation…most importantly learn how to be respectful—my motto has always been HONOR and RESPECT (always shared that)

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