Are you curious about the symbols that hold special meaning in the biker community? Bikers have a unique language of symbols that only insiders truly understand. While some symbols are specific to certain motorcycle clubs, many of them are embraced universally as part of the larger biker culture.
The Number 13 (Diamond 13)
The number 13 often represents “marijuana” in the biker world. It stems from the 13th letter in the alphabet, “M”. However, it can also signify “methamphetamine” or drug use in general. Alongside these drug-related meanings, the number 13 holds other common interpretations. For instance, it can represent “motorcycle” or “mother” (referring to the original chapter of an MC). Moreover, it is sometimes associated with the phrase “Only 12 jurors and 1 judge can judge me”.
The true meaning of the number 13 varies between clubs, but the implication of drug use or outlaw club status remains prevalent. Bikers often wear a “Diamond 13” patch or a biker ring featuring this symbol.
For more on this topic, check out our related article: 5 Reasons Bikers Wear Rings
The 1%er symbol identifies members of outlaw motorcycle clubs, indicating their rebellious nature. It originated in 1947 when the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) stated that “99% of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens”. By implication, the remaining 1% were considered outlaws or criminals.
Outlaw motorcycle clubs engage in illegal activities such as drug dealing, money laundering, firearms trafficking, and extortion. Their rivalry is often marked by violence, not only towards other outlaw clubs but also towards law enforcement.
Wearing the 1%er symbol is a powerful way for members to assert their identity and rebel against societal norms. You can spot this symbol on their clothing, motorcycles, and personal belongings.
Iron Cross (Biker Cross)
The iron cross, also known as the biker cross, may be mistaken as a hate symbol due to its association with German Nazis during WWII. However, the iron cross is actually a cross pattée and predates Nazi use by approximately 700 years. It has been used by various groups throughout history, including the Knight’s Templar, the Kingdom of Prussia, and Germany in the late 1800s to early 1900s.
Despite its historical origins, the iron cross has struggled to shake its association with Nazi Germany, primarily because of its brief use by the Nazis and the inclusion of a swastika in their version of the cross. Nevertheless, the iron cross continues to be a symbol of rebellion in biker culture. Bikers in the 1960s deliberately adopted the iron cross to provoke reactions and establish their presence as part of the counter-culture. It remains a strong symbol in the biker community, often paired with mottos or other symbols like skulls.
FTW stands for “Fuck the World” and has its origins linked to Vietnam War soldiers.
After returning from the war, Vietnam veterans faced a lack of support and gratitude from the American public, as the war grew increasingly unpopular. Unlike the veterans of World War II, Vietnam veterans did not receive the same level of appreciation and were often met with indifference or hostility.
FTW was created as an acronym to express the feelings Vietnam veterans had towards the world that seemed to have turned its back on them. Their world outside the war was the United States, and if the world would not appreciate their sacrifices, then they would say, “fuck them.” They found solace in the camaraderie of fellow veterans, many of whom joined motorcycle groups.
The term FTW has since been adopted by the biker community as a way to express their rejection of mainstream society and the world outside of biker culture.
Biker Cuts (Vests)
Biker vests, also known as “cuts”, are worn to demonstrate affiliation with a motorcycle club. Originally, they were created by cutting the sleeves off denim jackets, hence the name “cuts”. Over time, leather vests became the preferred choice for bikers.
These vests feature patches that symbolize various aspects of a biker’s identity. Patches can indicate the club name, logo, country or city, and rank, among other things. The most distinctive feature of biker cuts is the large patch sewn onto the back, known as the club’s emblem or “the colors”.
Safety Pin (Pass Pin)
A safety pin or “pass pin” is occasionally worn on the vests of motorcycle club (MC) members when riding through another club’s territory. This pin signifies that they don’t intend to cause any trouble and are only passing through. It serves as a sign of respect within the biker community.
Understanding these symbols gives you valuable insight into the biker culture and the meanings behind them. So next time you see a biker with a patch or symbol, you’ll have a deeper understanding of what it represents.
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