UDBH #317036, VOL 30, ISS 3
leathers and rolexs: the
symbolism and values of the
James F. Quinn and Craig J. Forsyth
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Leathers and Rolexs: The Symbolism and Values of the Motorcycle
James F. Quinn and Craig J. Forsyth
leathers and rolexs: the
symbolism and values of the
James F. Quinn
University of North Texas, Denton,
Craig J. Forsyth
University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Lafayette,
The article describes the spectrum of motorcycling
groups before focusing on the symbolism and
values of modern outlaws or one percenters.
Factors unique to the edgework of motorcycling are
linked to the appearance and demeanor of bikers
and their most extreme expression of American
society’s shadow side among one percenters. The
persona of the largest one percent clubs are
outlined using the aphorisms and symbols of the
subculture. The values reflected in these symbols
are linked to those of the larger society as is the
evolution of the subculture. Also discussed are the
nature of interclub alliances and rivalries.
One percent or outlaw motorcycle clubs have been explored
by ethnographers (e.g., Montgomery 1977; Hopper and
Moore 1990; Wolf 1991; Quinn 2001; Veno 2003, 2007),
Received 10 November 2007; accepted 23 March 2008.
Address correspondence to James F. Quinn, Ph.D., University of North Texas,
Addictions Program, P.O. Box 311456, Denton, TX 76203, USA. E-mail: email@example.com
Deviant Behavior, 30: 1–31, 2009
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police officials (e.g., Davis 1982; McGuire 1986; Tretheway
and Katz 1998; Haut 1999; Smith 2002; Queen 2005), cur-
rent and former members (Reynolds 1967; Barger 2000;
Winterhalder 2005), and journalists (e.g., Thompson 1966;
Lavigne 1995, 1997, 2000; Sher and Marsden 2003). These
clubs have been characterized as secular sects (Watson
1982), fac¸ades for organized crime (Davis 1982; McGuire
1986; Tretheway and Katz 1998; Haut 1999; Barker 2005,
2007), collections of psychopathic misfits (McGuire 1986;
McDermott 2006), and fraternal organizations (Barger
2000). Scholars have also explored the power of their rituals
(Hopper and Moore 1983) and their treatment of women
(Hopper and Moore 1990).
The spirit of the one percenter nonetheless dominates the
majority of what police characterize as ‘‘outlaw motorcycle
gangs’’ (OMGs), especially with regard to the bikers’ pench-
ant for crime (e.g. McGuire 1986:68; Barker 2004:37). The
term OMG is avoided here, because (1) the Outlaws are a
specific one percent club and (2) the term ‘‘gang’’ has dis-
tinctive definitions in law and social science that accurately
describe only certain aspects of these clubs.
This article describes the range of motorcycling organiza-
tions and the experiential aspects of motorcycling before
focusing on the symbolism of one percent clubs. Underlying
the discussion is the irony that as one percenters attained
wealth and tried to legitimize their organizations, many
respectable American men bought Harleys and donned
leathers. These ‘‘rich urban bikers’’ (RUBS) (Tretheway and
Katz 1998:59) are sometimes derided as ‘‘rolex’’ riders by
more experienced motorcyclists (Thompson 2009).
The first author has maintained contacts within the one
percent subculture since the 1970s. The second author has
spent three decades studying deviant behavior and is familiar
with the saloon society in which the one percent subculture
originated. We have distilled our conversations with club
members, associates, and law enforcement personnel for
insights into club values and symbols and their relationship
with the mainstream. The insights of other writers are cited,
those acquired through informants are not. These contacts
2J. F. Quinn and C. J. Forsyth
add unique insights to the published literature and are critical
in organizing and interpreting it (Quinn and Forsyth 2007).
One percent clubs constitute secret societies with a
reputation for violence that makes direct contact challen-
ging. Information that might reveal new developments
(e.g., planned territorial expansion) or criminality are as dif-
ficult to extract from club members as the details of current
investigations are to obtain from law enforcement. Club
members stress the fraternal aspects of these clubs, in part
because it is the core of their lives. Only facts that are already
known or ‘‘safe’’ in terms of legal liability and rivals’ infor-
mation-gathering efforts are easily procured. Police reveal
only what is in the public record and their own beliefs about
old investigations. Their legal responsibilities rivet their
attention to the one percenters’ criminality. The social
distance between bikers and police is as enormous as their
animosity for one another. Police accounts thus emphasize
the most savage crimes committed by these bikers as does
the testimony of former bikers who become informants. Most
of the major journalistic sources (e.g., Lavigne 1995, 1997,
2000; Sher and Marsden 2003) rely mainly on police and
their informants as do many recent academic sources (Grascia
Q1 ; McDermott 2006; Barker 2004).
Each club and chapter is distinct and the subculture has
moved from one largely dominated by countercultural gang
members (purists) to a more subcultural focus in which older
values share the stage with rational profiteering (entrepre-
neurs) and public relations (Quinn and Forsyth 2007). A
valid analysis requires critical examination of each source
in the context of its biases, thus merging aspects of ethnogra-
phy with qualitative content analysis. Quantitative analyses
are unlikely to possess sufficient validity for scholarship
due to the biases of potential sources. One percenters are a
very small fraction of organized motorcyclists and a basic
understanding of the latter is required to place these clubs
THE SPECTRUM OF MOTORCYCLING
A ‘‘biker’’ is anyone who rides a motorcycle, but for
most Americans the term suggests a tattooed, leather clad,
Leathers and Rolexs 3
barroom brawling, criminal: in other words, a one percenter.
One percenters are always club members: the distinctive
‘‘1%’’ symbol surrounded by a diamond is granted by only
a few clubs and is restricted to men accepted into ‘‘full
patch’’ membership. The one percent denotation applies
only to the most dedicated and anti-social club bikers (Quinn
2001). The most powerful of these clubs are the Hells Angels
(HA or HAMC), Bandidos, Mongols, Outlaws, and Pagans
but the Sons of Silence, Vagos, Iron Horsemen, and Warlocks
are also significant players in the subculture.
The advent of RUBs, such as talk show host Jay Leno, dur-
ing the 1990s was based partly on the image created by these
clubs. Many new Harley riders adopted aspects of the biker
imagery set by club riders such as the display of Harley-
Davidson logos in a manner reminiscent of club colors. This
surge of interest in Harleys led to the debut of several cable
TV shows focused on building custom bikes for rolex riders.
Many of these new bikers created or joined organizations
like the Harley Owners Groups (HOGs), which meet for
group rides and social events. The Gold Wing Road Riders
Association’s (GWRRA) motto, ‘‘Friends of Fun, Safety and
Knowledge’’ (GWRRA 2008), describes the values of its
Honda riders. These groups are best described as associa-
tions, rather than clubs. Owning a certain type of bike is
the central, if not sole, prerequisite for membership. Obliga-
tions to the group are minimal, and participation in the group
is rarely the main theme of a member’s life.
Motorcycle clubs (MCs) have stricter and more idiosyn-
cratic membership criteria; some are hierarchically orga-
nized, and a few totally dominate their members’ lives.
Although neither a club nor association, Bikers Against Child
Abuse (BACA) is also noteworthy. BACA uses biker imagery
to support victims of child abuse as their cases progress
through the courts. A few of its members were, nonetheless,
implicated in a recent murder for hire case (Emily 2008).
Clubs may be loosely divided into five categories based
on general adherence to one percenter norms. Riding clubs
are much like associations with little or no criminal activity
and fairly loose membership standards. They are fraternal
organizations for riding enthusiasts. Some are composed of
police officers and firefighters, members of others range from
professional to blue collar. Some riding clubs have members
4J. F. Quinn and C. J. Forsyth
with minor criminal involvements, such as brawling or
street-level drug sales, but most avoid crime. Thus, riding
clubs form a broad continuum from strict conformity to
tolerance of moderately serious crime.
One percent support clubs have minor to moderate crim-
inal involvements and maintain a relationship with a larger
club to protect them from other large clubs and bolster their
reputation. Support clubs usually display the colors (e.g., red
and gold for Bandidos), but not the insignia, of the one per-
cent group with which they are affiliated. They claim status
as part of, for example, the ‘‘Bandido Nation’’ or ‘‘red and
gold world’’ (Bandidos MC 2008) (see Table 1). Support
clubs often began as independent groups that gradually
developed an affiliation with a large one percent group.
Support club activities facilitate interaction between these
groups and one percenters while promoting the idea of
motorcycle clubs as fraternal organizations. They are often
involved in the legitimate events hosted by one percenters
such as drag races, bike shows, and charity events.
One percent ‘‘Satellite clubs’’ are created and controlled
by members of larger clubs as proving grounds for prospec-
tive members. Their members perform many of the most dan-
gerous tasks important to the larger club and its members’
criminal enterprises as they are screened for one percent
membership (Expatica News 2004). For example, HAMC
satellite members built and placed most of the explosive
devices in the Quebec war between the HA and Bandidos
(Sher and Marsden 2003). Finally, at the highest level of club
and criminal involvement are the one percent clubs them-
selves. Danner and Silverman’s (1986) description of the
criminal histories of bikers imprisoned in Virginia under-
scores the idea that violence is so endemic among 1%s that
it statistically distinguished bikers from other inmates. That
study is dated, however, and may over-represent violence
among modern bikers. Eight-three percent of the known
Canadian HA members have a criminal record, with over
half of the convictions involving drugs, violence, and weap-
ons (RCMP 1999:19). Criminality is not universal among
one percenters, however. Wrestler turned politician, Jessie
Ventura, was a full patch Mongol while serving as a Navy
SEAL (Queen 2005) and Chuck Zito, star of HBO’s ‘‘OZ’’
is a member of the Manhattan HAMC (RCMP 1999:58).
Leathers and Rolexs 5
TABLE 1 The Five Largest One Percent Clubs
Club and date
of origin Colors Emblem
North American charters
indicates state of origin World Charters
Red & gold Mexican
Alabama (4), Arkansas (2),
Colorado (4), Hawaii (1),
Louisiana (5), Mississippi (2),
Montana (2), New Mexico (12),
Oklahoma (3), Nevada (2),
South Dakota (4), Texas(34),
Utah (1), Washington (14),
Wyoming (1) CANADA:
Ontario (?), Manitoba (1?)
SCANDINAVIA: Denmark (12),
Finland (4), Norway (5),
Sweden (6), EUROPE: Germany
(39), Belgium (2), France (8),
Germany (40), Italy (5),
with European Charters)
Australia (21), Singapore (1),
Thailand (5), Malaysia (1)
Red & white
Alaska (2), Arizona (6), Colorado
(1), California (19),
Connecticut (3), Kentucky (1),
Illinois (3), Indiana (1),
Maryland (2), Massachusetts (5),
Maine (2), Ohio (2), Michigan
(1), Minnesota (1), New
Hampshire (2), Nevada (3),
New York (5), Nebraska (1),
North Carolina (4),
Pennsylvania (2), Rhode Island
(1), South Carolina (3)
SCANDINAVIA: Denmark (10),
Finland (4), Norway (6),
Sweden (7) EUROPE: Belgium
(5), Bohemia (Czech. Rep. &
Slovakia) (2), Croatia (1),
England (16), France (5), Greece
(2), Germany (31), Holland (8),
Italy (9), Liechtenstein (1),
Portugal (2), Spain (7),
Switzerland (6), Russia (1),
Wales (1) AUSTRALASIA:
Australia (10), New Zealand (3)
CANADA: Alberta (3), British
Columbia (7), Saskatchewan (2),
Manitoba (1), Ontario (15),
SOUTH AMERICA: Argentina
(3), Brazil (5), Chile (1) AFRICA:
South Africa (5)
Khan (on a
Arizona (1), California(49),
Colorado (1), Florida (1),
Georgia (1), Indiana (1), Illinois
(1), Oklahoma (6), Maryland
(1), Montana (1), Nevada (5),
New York (1) North Carolina
(1), CANADA: Ontario (2)
(per club) &=or
Skull & crossed
Alabama (2), Arkansas (1),
Colorado (1), Connecticut (1),
Florida (16), Georgia (6),
Illinois(16), Indiana (4),
Kentucky (5), Maine (1),
Massachusetts (5), Michigan (5),
New Hampshire (2), New York
(2), North Carolina (5), Ohio (6),
Oklahoma (1), Pennsylvania (6),
Tennessee (7), Virginia (1),
Wisconsin (10) CANADA:
Ontario (6), Quebec (1)
SCANDINAVIA: Norway (6),
Sweden (2) EUROPE: Belgium
(11), England (22), France (4),
Germany (34), Ireland (5), Italy
(3), Poland (5), Russia (6), Wales
(3) AUSTRALASIA: Australia
(17), Philippines (1), Thailand
(2), Japan (1)
Blue & red Norse God
Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio,
Maryland, Pennsylvania, New
Jersey, New York, Delaware
In general, however, the larger the club, the more extensive
the illicit networks of its members.
Both associations and clubs have a small national or
global leadership structure that coordinates the activities of
semi-autonomous local chapters. Other similarities between
one percenters and RUBS are the superficial products of
riding a large motorcycle and, perhaps, the RUB desire to
emulate the iconography of the modern outlaw.
LIFE ON TWO WHEELS
Mere reliance on a motorcycle for transportation exerts a
powerful influence on a person’s lifestyle and appearance
that is crucial to the desire to be a biker. Wind, sweat, and
dust conspire to assure that motorcyclists cannot remain as
neat and clean as those in four-wheeled vehicles (derisively
labeled cages by one percenters). Weather is also a chronic
concern, as bikes slide easily on wet, oily pavement; icy
manhole covers are deathtraps for a turning motorcycle;
and sand or gravel on intersections can be lethal. Wind
and sun burn are chronic sources of discomfort that can be
reduced by facial hair. Bikers of all types wear leather
because it provides the best protection from injury in falls
and accidents, as well as from insects and debris kicked up
by other vehicles. People who have never felt the impact
of a pebble or raindrop at 70 miles an hour cannot fully
appreciate this aspect of a biker’s life.
Bikers also have to be somewhat paranoid of other dri-
vers, because of the size differential and visibility pro-
blems. Large trucks produce aerodynamic turbulence that
can destabilize most bikes at high speed; tankers can cre-
ate enough suction to pull a lightweight bike toward them.
Debris from a truck tire blowout can kill a biker. Worse
yet, many drivers feel they can ‘‘crowd’’ a biker when pas-
sing because the bike does not ‘‘need’’ the entire breadth
of the lane. Others act as though motorcycles can easily
come to an instantaneous stop. These are dangerous mis-
perceptions that inspire some bikers to hurl various objects
at ignorant drivers in hopes of teaching them to respect
motorcyclists. This is also typical of the retaliatory ethos
of the one percent subculture—even a minor slight can
call forth an annihilative response.
8J. F. Quinn and C. J. Forsyth
Bikes are less mechanically reliable than cars because
their engines are made of lighter materials and therefore
vibrate more. They require more maintenance, adjustment
and repair, especially when ridden for long distances. Most
bikers will stop to assist one another because of the fre-
quency of mechanical problems. Similarly, they often wave
at other bikes as they pass. One percenters, however, rarely
feel any affinity for citizen-bikers, and rarely assist others
unless they are members of a club aligned with their own.
One percenters will occasionally assist stranded motorists
when the mood and opportunity strike together. By doing so
they demonstrate their mechanical skills, build a positive
image of their club or subculture, and enjoy the reaction
their presence evokes in citizens (i.e., non-bikers). Four
one percenters stopped for a family with an engine problem
in the Virginia mountains in 1973. The panicked family
dashed up the side of the mountain as the colors-clad bikers
pulled to the shoulder. The bikers laughed hysterically as the
citizens disappeared into the brush. They fixed the car,
started it, and left.
The mechanical quality of bikes (Harleys) has vastly
improved since the early days of the subculture. Chain-
driven bikes required constant adjustment, but are increas-
ingly rare as belt drive Harleys have come to dominate the
market. (The major Japanese brands now use shaft drives,
which are all but maintenance free; Harleys use only belts
and chains.) The hand-crafted choppers typical of one per-
centers up until the 1980s generally required kick-starting,
which involved exerting a great deal of force on a lever
mounted to the crankshaft. A slip of the foot could easily
gash the riders’ lower leg, so boots and a lot of weight or
physical strength were required merely to start these bikes.
Choppers are heavily modified bikes that, when built from
miscellaneous parts, are usually stripped of parts not essen-
tial to power or steering. Thus, chain guards were rarely left
in place on one percenters’ bikes prior to the 1990s. If the
chain broke, as is common, it could wrap itself around the
passengers’ right calf. The longer the bike has been running,
the hotter the chain, so this almost always left a scar on the
ankle or calf. Motorcycle mufflers also heat up very quickly
and chopper mufflers were often placed dangerously close to
the passenger’s feet. Aficionados of the topless bars in the
Leathers and Rolexs 9
1970s rightly joked that you could always tell the (one
percent) biker women by the scars on their ankles.
ROMANCE, POWER, AND RIDING
Only certain types of people possess a strong desire to ride,
and even fewer persist in bad weather and=or for long dis-
tances. Many RUBs see their bikes as recreational vehicles,
for use mainly on pleasant weekends. This is NOT the case
for purist one percenters who pride themselves on riding
whenever possible. Along with the raucous sort of men
drawn to an ‘‘outlaw’’ lifestyle and communication issues
prior to the advent of modern telecommunications, the
contingencies of riding led to the autonomy of the local
chapter in the early one percent clubs. Each area poses
unique challenges that determine the degree to which a
motorcycle can feasibly be used as transportation. Some
chapters mandate year-round use of bikes to attend meet-
ings, and prohibit the display of colors unless the member
is on his bike. Others are more lenient because local climate
precludes riding for part of the year.
Riding remains a predominantly masculine activity. This
sort of macho demeanor combines with an appearance
and wariness shaped by the demands of riding, to create
an imagery that is evocative of the one percenter. The com-
bination of vulnerability to weather, road conditions and
other vehicles, and the masculine resilience that underlies
the pleasure of riding, are major factors in the romantic ima-
gery of the biker. The adversity with which motorcyclists
contend leads to a penchant for edgework: the idea that
respect for and disproportionate attention to risk taking is
integral to the offender’s life-world. Edgework can be vital
in crystallizing commitment to some types of crime as well
as symbolic of resistance to societal power (Lyng 2004).
The constant risks engendered by interclub warfare, criminal
activities, and bold, if not reckless, motorcycle operation are
thus interrelated as methods by which powerful bonds
between club members are developed.
The desperado image of the gang member adds a unique
bit of American nostalgia as well, with its implications of
rugged individualism and violent toughness that are imbued
in our national character. RUBS find biker symbolism
10 J. F. Quinn and C. J. Forsyth
attractive because it permits symbolic rebellion or escape
from the over scheduled, segmented, and stressful life of
the modern professional. The ‘‘outlaw’’ biker represents a
shadow side of modern U.S. culture with vestiges of the
old west, the anti-hero, and the rugged individualist apparent
in its various manifestations.
C.G. Jung (1938:131) described the dangerous, dark, and
anti-social ‘‘shadow’’ side of human nature and social organi-
zation as relevant to both deviant and legitimate behavior.
Bikers represent the shadow side of U.S. society’s historic
and contemporary realities: the unacknowledged, socially
unacceptable, but latently powerful aspects of social institu-
tions and movements that have been synthesized into club life.
One percent clubs grew out of the fascination with cars
and motorcycles born of the relative affluence of the
1950s. The rugged individualism of the libertarian anti-hero
portrayed in many westerns and police films also contribute
heavily to the biker belief system. Prior to the late 1970s,
most one percenters lived a hand-to-mouth lifestyle depen-
dent on small time criminal ‘‘hustles’’ and blue collar wages.
The beat–hippie subcultures of the 1955–1975 era eschewed
the trappings of material wealth and popularized egalitarian
camaraderie, and hedonistic sexual and drug activity, pro-
viding models for these aspects of biker life even today.
The 1970s saw the subculture expand rapidly across North
America with a few clubs absorbing smaller ones. In the
1980s the remaining large clubs began working to legitimize
their image and undertook various charitable efforts. Much
of this activity can be defined as cynical impression manage-
ment but with entrepreneurialism came maturity and stability
that fostered compassion in some one percenters. It was also
in the 1980s that clubs’ attention turned to international
expansion and one percent clubs became firmly entrenched
in Europe, Australia, and other areas as they adopted a more
exclusive focus on profits and power modeled on transna-
tional corporations (Tretheway and Katz 1998; Quinn
2001; Veno, 2003, 2007). One percenters thus provide a
mirror to society that isolates and magnifies the darker
aspects of mainstream institutions and trends.
One percent bikers are guided by both the iconography of the
collective (gang) and their own idiosyncracies (Montgomery
1977). Club organization provides them with large, ostensibly
Leathers and Rolexs 11
trustworthy networks and support while permitting them a great
deal of personal freedom. The themes of group loyalty and
power, intensified by gang solidarity in the face of social rejec-
tion, are key to this image. These themes grew partly from the
unique aspects of motorcycling and partly from the ‘‘combat’’
ethos of a unified set of barroom brawlers operating in ‘‘saloon
society.’’ The large proportion of combat veterans, especially at
the inception of the subculture in 1947 and during the Vietnam
era, add to lethality of one percenter violence. The violence and
lawless hedonism characteristic of one percenters is part of the
subculture’s ‘‘saloon society’’ heritage.
This term was coined by Hunter Thompson (1966) in his
seminal expose of the Hells Angels to describe a milieu of
various subcultures based in the taverns and nightclubs of
urban centers and the roadhouses on their outskirts. This is
a violent and hedonistic nether-world on the boundary
between conventional and criminal societies; a polyglot
world of blue collar workers, adventurous citizens, mobsters,
hustlers, and whores. The bars involved are not always
overtly threatening, but many of their patrons are capable
of murder. There is a raw animalistic, sexual quality to this
milieu: The potential for sudden, lethal violence lurks in
many of these taverns’ restrooms and parking lots, alongside
the promise of a promiscuous liaison.
Saloon society traditionally consisted of places where patrons
and employees tended to be armed, and no one wanted to
involve the police, regardless of what occurred (i.e., knife and
gun clubs in which most patrons carry at least a knife and the
bartender needs a gun). Social control is thus largely informal
and coercive if not overtly violent. In the last twenty years,
saloon society has come to include nightclubs and taverns
where ordinary people occasionally come to unwind for an
evening. Most topless and nude bars are part of this milieu, or
at least on its fringes. So are many quiet, blue-collar taverns
and fancy nightclubs. Crimes ranging from drug sales and
prostitution to murder and extortion are endemic here, although
their expression may be subtle or blatant.
´s of these establishments are more governed
by the law of the street than the formal justice system.
12 J. F. Quinn and C. J. Forsyth
Mobsters and hustlers hang out in these places, as do all
variety of social misfits and serious offenders. Bikers are
one distinct type that few regulars of this milieu challenge.
The mobsters tend to have the most actual power and in
many areas are the only members of saloon society who
can exert any direct influence over one percenters.
The ease with which violence becomes the normative
solution to any affront is a saloon society trait that is often
taken to extremes by one percenters. In a setting where
self-help social control predominates, demeanor, reputation,
and image are the primary means of curtailing violence and
assuring safety (Black 1984). Being alert to the potential for
sudden violence is critical to survival in this milieu. Sudden
attacks resulting from norm violations by those unaccus-
tomed to saloon society (or one percenters) are seen as
defense of one’s standing, or as preempting anticipated
violence. One percenter status usually discourages direct
attacks because of the ethic of total annihilative retribution
for which one percenters are famous.
Hierarchies are vitally important in saloon society because
they organize participants’ perceptions of potential contacts
and interactions as they confer power. On a practical level,
such unspoken hierarchies provide quick insights as to who
must receive deference or cautious attention. For example, it
is extremely unwise for a male to initiate conversation with a
one percenter, especially when he is wearing his colors.
(Colors are the vest with name, location, and insignia of
the club that is received at initiation into membership. The
term also refers to the club insignia, which is often displayed
as jewelry or affixed to one’s bike. Most clubs also associate
two hues with their insignia.) Bikers respect only the hierar-
chies of their subculture and those of mobsters and police
whose coercive power usually exceeds their own. Deference
from others is an unspoken expectation that is perceived as a
reflection of personal and club power.
Deference to the hierarchies of saloon society and the one
percent subculture can be subtle or extreme, but because of
their obsession with power, it is almost always enforced by
one percenters. The subculture has its own distinct hierarchy
based on the club’s power, as measured in membership,
territory, reputation, and most recently, the entrepreneurial
success of its members. Many one percenters are at the hub
Leathers and Rolexs 13
of criminal social networks and serve as a reference group for
a large set of actors (e.g., wanna-bes, some associates). Thus,
saloon society was the launching pad from which many one
percenters entered the more sophisticated underworld of
organized crime. Drug distribution, extortion, prostitution,
and theft rings are the crimes most often attributed to members
of these clubs (Davis 1982; McGuire 1986; Barker 2007) but
white collar crimes are increasingly common (Culbert et al.
2001; Sher and Marsden 2003:306–309; Tuohy 2001).
DISTINCTIVE ATTRIBUTES OF THE ONE
It is difficult to distinguish a modern one percenter from
other bikers unless the insignia is present. Further, the core
traits of one percenters and their clubs are merely the
extreme of a continuum that runs from law-abiding to crime
immersed and from the countercultural gang member to the
sophisticated subcultural entrepreneur (Quinn and Forsyth
2007). The criminal extreme can be present in either the
spontaneous expressive acts of a purist gang member or
the ruthless entrepreneurship of a crime syndicate. Both
types of criminality are embedded in the dynamics of the
subculture and occur in both pure and mixed forms among
club members, their chapters, and clubs. Beyond their
penchant for extreme behaviors that flout convention, few
generalities can be applied to one percenters. Even the use
of the term one percenter evokes some controversy.
Some HAMC satellites claim one percent status, despite
Sonny Barger’s (reputedly the most ‘‘influential’’ member
of the HAMC, known as ‘‘the chief’’ to his brothers) rejection
of the symbol’s implication of equality or brotherhood across
clubs. He asserts that the HAMC is distinct from these groups
(Barger 2000:41). The club’s website, however, describes
them as the ‘‘oldest, and biggest original 1%motorcycle club
in the world’’ (HAMC 2007). The club has, in many ways,
been the epitome of the term for decades but is only one
of over 30 such groups.
Members of any group using or affiliated with the one
percent label should be considered very capable of expres-
sive violence, and probably have at least some members
with organized crime involvements (Quinn and Koch 2003).
14 J. F. Quinn and C. J. Forsyth
Links to prison gangs, ethnic mobs, and racist groups are also
common among these clubs (Queen 2005; Lavigne 2000).
Nonetheless, many one percenters are gainfully employed
or operate legitimate businesses.
Along with a blatant ferocity and hedonism, most one per-
centers are immersed in their bikes, brothers, and club. Fas-
cination with power is evident in all of their concerns, from
personal strength and motorcycle performance to turf wars
and profiteering. Although drawn from the mainstream cul-
ture, their love of power lacks any semblance of the modera-
tion that, at least theoretically, counterbalances its influence
in conventional society (Quinn and Koch 2003).
Modern one percenters retain the traditional fascination
with motorcycles, often well-accessorized and somewhat
customized, generally kept in superb aesthetic and mechan-
ical condition. However, an increasing proportion seem to
prefer SUVs and luxury cars. These one percenters are
among the most entrepreneurial and many of the chapters
to which they belong lack the gang-like loyalty of the purist
biker, focusing instead on acquiring underworld power.
Most of these expansion franchises (Quinn and Forsyth
2007) were formed after 1985 in Canada and western Europe
by the HAMC and Bandidos, largely to extend territorial
claims and criminal enterprises. Driven by greed, status-
seeking, and interpersonal rivalries with members of rival
clubs, these franchise bikers are often similar to RUBS in
their view of motorcycles as recreational vehicles. The need
to penalize members for not riding at least once a month dur-
ing good weather suggests a serious departure from the sub-
culture’s original, purist values. The sanction’s existence
points to the club’s awareness of the need to link their name
to the romantic imagery of riding while the leniency of the
fine—$25 per month—suggests they do not take the rule’s
violation very seriously (Lavigne 1997). Purist bikers pride
themselves on their almost exclusive reliance on two-
wheeled transportation: their lives and the imagery of the
biker are shaped by the vagaries of riding.
One percenters are traditionally defined in terms of mechan-
ical skills, hyper-masculinity, and outrageous nonconformity
Leathers and Rolexs 15
(Watson 1982; Wolf 1991:82). They are men who cannot or
will not fit in to mainstream society, are alienated enough to
exalt in the outlaw status the symbol infers, and fearless
enough to defend that status against all challenges (Quinn
1987). In the early days of the subculture (c. 1955–1975),
some even made a point of publicly french kissing one
another to outrage both mainstream niceties and their own
hyper-masculinity! This was as much a part of the rebellious
spirit that characterized the beat–hippie era as it was an
indicator of the bikers’ inversion of mainstream norms.
Swift, annihilative retribution is the normative response to
any affront to a club or member. The intention of the offen-
der is of marginal relevance and only large amounts of
money can even be considered as compensation in lieu of
injury. Although not exclusive to one percenters, concern
with upholding group honor is a long standing biker value
critical to group dynamics and individual behavior. Bay
(1989) notes that bikers’ pursuit of honor usually occurs at
the expense of others, especially those from other clubs.
Interpersonal rivalries thus often overlap with inter-group
animosities to produce especially bitter conflicts.
These bitter rivalries deepen over time, as insults to honor
are traded with increasing frequency and virulence (Bay
1989). One biker strikes out at a rival to enhance his own sta-
tus in his group but his victim, or the victim’s brothers, must
return the offense at a higher level to appease their sense of
honor. Interclub warfare is thus a relatively normal state for
most one percenters. The resulting escalation of hostilities
is ameliorated only by perceived threats to the clubs’ wel-
fare. Hopper and Moore (1983) note that when clubs or
chapters dissolve, it is usually from dissension within; out-
side forces have had little success in trying to suppress them.
The ferocity with which honor is defended also makes
these clubs a formidable force in the underworld that has
allowed them to threaten Canada’s more staid ethnic mobs
(Humphreys 2001). Ironically, one percenters expect their
behavior to deter their foes but are proud that legal efforts
at deterrence have little impact on them.
Despite their anti-mainstream demeanor, these clubs are
powerfully impacted by both the symbolic and practical
aspects of the surrounding society. Their emphasis on
mechanical expertise easily expanded into the realm of
16 J. F. Quinn and C. J. Forsyth
electronics and computer skills, with webmasters and
hackers becoming recognized roles within some clubs.
Vengeance-seeking has also become less direct and immedi-
ate, and is increasingly driven by rational concerns over the
last two decades. Power has become as much an instrument
of commerce as it is a form of status-seeking among modern
one percenters in the larger, ‘‘international’’ clubs.
DOMINANT ONE PERCENT CLUBS
The subculture was born in the late 1940s but most modern
clubs emerged between 1955 and 1970. Until approximately
1970, the subculture was composed of a plethora of small
clubs, usually local or regional in nature. In the late 1960s,
the two most established clubs—the HAMC and the
Outlaws—came to focus on deliberate expansion, largely
by taking over small, local groups (Quinn 2001). The
California-based HAMC quickly established bases in the
Northeast United States whereas the Outlaws moved south
from their Chicago headquarters to dominate much of the
south and Midwest. The Pagans’ attempt to expand south
from Virginia ultimately failed but the club retained
hegemony in the mid-Atlantic until the 1990s when serious
challenges from the HAMC began. The Bandidos, now a
subcultural superpower, emerged from southeast Texas in
1969 and took power along the Gulf Coast after vanquishing
the New Orleans–based Galloping Gooses who had
maintained a loose alliance with the HAMC.
Dominance of the one percent subculture is traditionally
discussed in terms of these Big Four clubs—the Hells Angels,
the Outlaws, the Bandidos, and the Pagans. The Big Four
term dates to the early 1970s, and is equated with one
percenters by some observers (e.g., Lavigne 1995:164). The
term, and especially its equation with the one percent sub-
culture, is extremely problematic. The Angels, Bandidos,
Outlaws, and Pagans have been the largest, most powerful
groups in the subculture for many years, so the appellation
is historical–traditional. The attribution of subcultural power
to these four clubs is increasingly anachronistic: its validity
depending on whether trend-setting, membership, geo-
graphic spread, reputation, or sophistication are focal. Valid
arguments can be made for the ‘‘Big Three’’ or the ‘‘Big Six’’
Leathers and Rolexs 17
(Barker 2004:41–45), but neither of these groupings is widely
accepted. Some speak of two superpowers, the HAMC and
the Bandidos. Others include the Outlaws MC as part of
the big three, thus excluding the Pagans, while some want
to add the Mongols or Sons of Silence to the Big Five. Size,
power, reputation, and geographic spread result in different
The Big Four clubs are the trend-setters in the larger one
percent subculture, with the HAMC being the most influen-
tial (RCMP 1999, 2002; Smith 2002). For the most part it is
the HAMC with which the others must contend if they are
to survive. More important, however, is the fact that the
HAMC bears the brunt of federal prosecutions so their adap-
tations to police investigations are used by other clubs seek-
ing to avoid similar problems. This combination of factors
gives the HAMC a large, albeit indirect and often unwel-
come, influence over subcultural evolution. Many organiza-
tional aspects of other clubs alleged to be imitations of the
HAMC are simply the product of the bikers’ raucous nature,
legal pressures, and internecine rivalries, which lead to a
modal form of organization for the subculture.
The Pagans are significantly smaller, and lack many traits
of the other three (e.g., less conventionalized, little public
relations), whereas the HAMC is larger, wealthier, and more
sophisticated than the rest of the subculture. On the other
hand, the Mongols and Sons of Silence share many traits with
the so-called big four, especially the more purist Pagans and
Outlaws. The Sons have a large geographic spread, but a
fairly small membership that tends to keep a low profile.
The Mongols recently (2006–2008) expanded across North
America and acquired footholds in Europe and Canada. They
have gained much in sophistication while retaining a
reputation rivaled only by the HAMC.
Table 1 provides basic information about the five largest,
most powerful one percent clubs. Clubs compete to claim
that they are the oldest, largest, and most widespread. Most,
but not all, provide their versions of their history but these
must be interpreted carefully and supplemented with less for-
mal data. Counting charters, like any effort to quantify an
aspect of this subculture, is inherently problematic and
error-prone. Clubs may claim non-existent chapters and
deny other, active ones. A ‘‘charter’’ grants a group of men
18 J. F. Quinn and C. J. Forsyth
in a specific area the right to claim affiliation with a club, to
become a chapter. A chapter may consist of anywhere from
six to more than thirty full patch members. Being chartered is
no guarantee of activity. Both the Outlaws and Bandidos
claim Canadian chapters but these groups, if they still exist,
keep a very low profile. Simultaneously, the Mongols have
made inroads in the southeastern United States and Canada
that are not yet formally acknowledged by the club. There-
fore the numerical data provided here can be taken only as
a relative measure of the breadth of territorial claims made
by each club in 2007. Even the descriptive data (e.g., dates)
is sometimes arguable but provide an approximate time line
for the appearance of various clubs in the subculture.
Other clubs, such as the Vagos, Warlocks, Gypsy Jokers,
and Scorpions have loose and often tentative alliances with
one or more or these large clubs and are arguably more pur-
ist one percenters than many superpower bikers. There are
also regional groups such as the Renegades in the southeast,
the Galloping Gooses in the Midwest, and California’s
Vagos. The lines of demarcation between these groupings
have always been vague but increasing entrepreneurialism,
and the resultant decline of gang-like loyalty, have, it seems,
led to the decline of the Pagans and the ascent of Mongols.
Club persona are constantly evolving, but their basic fea-
tures were fixed early in each club’s history. They tend to
be self-perpetuating because they are critical in the selection
and socialization of new members. Regional differences
often add to the group’s persona, and some adulteration
inevitably occurs with international growth, if only because
of cultural differences. Each club is unified around its own
set of symbols—insignia or colors and aphorisms and their
acronyms. Whereas insignia and colors are unique to each
group, aphorism use reflects both the group’s unique persona
as well as more general subcultural norms.
Each club’s unique persona underlies membership selec-
tion criteria, influences the structure of club leadership,
and guide its priorities. A club’s persona is embodied in its
symbols and manifested in the collective interpretation of
subcultural norms and values. These persona are essentially
a collective definition of biker values and priorities that sub-
tly distinguish one club from another. Although one percen-
ters appear remarkably similar to an outsider, their clubs are
Leathers and Rolexs 19
as distinct as one democracy is from another to their
members. Each persona represents a different variation of
the subculture’s basic norm structure. Club persona underlies
many of the events and symbols that shape the subculture
but are neglected in most analyses offered by non-bikers.
The interaction of these persona with one another, with
mainstream forces such as law enforcement and technology,
and with other influences (e.g., the drug trade) have been
critical to shaping the subculture.
CLUB PERSONA AND SYMBOLISM
The Hells Angels insignia is a winged skull (death’s head)
customized by each chapter but always with horizontal
wings in red and white. The Angels are so closely identified
with this color combination that red and white (like HA) is a
common synonym for the group. The Mongols’ brief use of
this color combination in 1977 is said to have precipitated
warfare between these two California-based groups (Lavigne
1995:75). However, anti-Mexican sentiments among the
HAMC undoubtedly made a major contribution to the ani-
mus between these clubs. The HAMC claims origins in both
San Bernardino and Oakland, CA but has long had a pre-
sence in the NYC–Boston area. It is governed by officers’
councils that meet weekly on the east and west coasts but
the Oakland chapter guides much of the club’s corporate
The Angels are especially known for their lethal violence
and arrogance. Their trademark weapon is a ball peen ham-
mer, commonly used by auto body shops. The HAMC coined
the motto, ‘‘Angels Forever, Forever Angels’’ (HAMC 2007)
that has been adapted by most other clubs (e.g., Pagans
Forever, Forever Pagan). These and similar mottos are often
expressed as acronyms (e.g., AFFA). The expression was
derived from the HAMC’s (c. 1967) party motto, ‘‘Dope
Forever, Forever Loaded,’’ which has since been largely
The Angels make every effort to guarantee that only the
toughest, smartest, most committed bikers even approach
the club. It is arguably the largest one percent club in the
world with chapters on six continents. No matter what sort
of activity is referred to, the Angels do everything in their
20 J. F. Quinn and C. J. Forsyth
power to do more of it, or take it to a greater extreme than
other clubs. This extremism makes them one of the most for-
midable forces in the subculture, but has also bred an arro-
gance among their members that has earned them the
hatred of other one percent clubs. The HAMC’s reputation
has been earned, however, with consistent ferocity and
superior tactics. The club rarely allows even the smallest
slight from a rival to go unchallenged.
After a dozen or so members of the (now defunct) Breed
jumped a similar number of Angels in a Cleveland bar in
1970, the HAMC retaliated by sending a contingent of mem-
bers to a motorcycle show where many local Breed were
expected to be present. Four Breed and one Angel died in
the melee, even though the Angels were outnumbered by
about 6 to 1. A similar outcome obtained at Laughlin, NV
in 2001 when the Angels struck the Mongols with com-
mando-like precision inside a casino during a motorcycle
rally. Both the Laughlin and Cleveland incidents were clearly
premeditated. While the Cleveland attack was a local matter
decided by chapter officers, the Laughlin action may have
been planned by a faction (e.g., southern California chapters)
or the club’s regional leadership council (which is domi-
nated by northern California chapters.) As is typical, the
Laughlin attack occurred in the early hours of the morning
when few non-bikers were present in the casino.
The Bandidos emblem is a Mexican bandit in sombrero
with pistols, depicted in red and gold, a color combination
as sacred to this club as ‘‘red and white’’ is to the HAMC.
Founded in 1969 in southeast Texas with a distinctly entre-
preneurial spirit, the Bandidos were latecomers to the one
percent subculture but have grown to rival the HAMC in ter-
ritory and membership. Their 1960s origins are revealed by
the adoption of the title of Nicholas von Hoffman’s 1968
novel as their motto: ‘‘We are the people our parents warned
us about’’ (Von Hoffman 1968). However, this growth has
come at a price. The national hierarchy does not appear
to have as much control over their far flung chapters as do
other clubs (Brown 1999). It would also appear that some
aspects of their unique persona have been diluted by rapid
global expansion (e.g., use of Spanish terms). Their national
leader is referred to as ‘‘El Presidente’’ rather than ‘‘prez’’ as
in most clubs. Ironically, the club accepts anglicized
Leathers and Rolexs 21
Hispanics but discourages stereotypical ‘‘fat Mexicans’’ from
joining. The Bandidos have chapters across the south and
west as well as in Mexico, Canada, Australia, Southeast Asia,
and Europe (Haut 1999:475) There are also several regional
U.S. vice presidents. European, Asian, and Australian leaders
theoretically answer to the U.S. Presidente.
The Outlaws originated in Chicago, IL and are known for
their nearly idolatrous affection for their black and white
skull and pistons patch, known as Charlie. Lavigne
(1995:201) claims that Charlie is copied from Marlon
Brando’s jacket in the 1954 movie The Wild One, but
the Outlaws have documented its evolution from precursors
that predate the film by almost twenty years (Outlaws
MC 2006). (The contiguity of the modern club with its
1935 forebears is considered arguable by many one percen-
ters.) Outlaws claim that it is Charlie who watches their back
when they ride alone (members nonetheless usually operate
The Outlaws espouse an egalitarian view of being a one
percenter but are as vengeful a group as can be found in
the subculture, living by the motto ‘‘God forgives, Outlaws
don’t’’ (Outlaws MC 2006). Prior to the 2001 conviction of
Taco Bowman, the club’s National President, the club was
governed by a single elected leader and three to five regional
vice presidents. After Bowman’s conviction the club decided
that a single leader created too obvious a target for police
and rivals. A small group of regional leaders now governs
the club’s affairs.
The Pagans use a portrait of a Norse God with a flaming
staff (often referred to as the woolly beast) rendered in
brown, orange, and red as their insignia. They originally
mounted their colors on white vests, rather than the black
leather or blue denim that typified other clubs in the 1955–
1970 era. The club name is generally printed in blue or
black. Heavy canes and modified baseball bats are their
trademark weapon. The Pagans predominate in the mid-
Atlantic despite growing pressure from the HAMC and
Outlaws. They also have three active chapters in Australia.
Pagans are known for their calculating coldness, aptitude
Q2 , and lethal violence. A popular Pagan acro-
nym, LPDP, ‘‘Live Pagan Die Pagan’’ (Richter 2008
Q3 ) high-
lights the fatalism that pervades the subculture and its
22 J. F. Quinn and C. J. Forsyth
(purist) symbols. ‘‘Hit hard, Split fast’’ describes their
preferred method of avenging themselves or carrying out
other club business. They are the most nomadic of all the
big four clubs, rarely having even a local chapter clubhouse.
Pagan fondness for the number 13 exceeds that of other
clubs. They use it to set the minimum membership of their
mother chapter (i.e., national leadership council of former
presidents) and the size of the elite black t-shirt group that
enforces club rules and deals with the most serious threats
to the national organization. While the Bandidos, Mongols,
and Outlaws have shown limited solidarity in their animosity
towards the Hells Angels, the Pagans are relatively isolated
within the subculture, but have strong ties to mid-Atlantic
area ethnic mobs.
Although rivals, the Outlaws and the Pagans retain a more
purist approach to club life than the Bandidos and HAMC.
They have been slower to embrace the entrepreneurially dri-
ven efforts at legitimization that have characterized the
Angels and Bandidos for the last quarter century. This is also
the case with the Mongols.
Like the Bandidos and Outlaws, the Mongols refer to their
club as a nation (e.g., Bandido Nation). The Mongols wear
black and white patches with a likeness of Genghis Khan
astride a chopper. The club has ties to La Eme or the Mexican
Mafia, a large Chicano prison gang. Their motto, ‘‘Respect
few, Fear none’’ (Cavasos and Meisler 2008:1) epitomizes
their bellicose nature. Most, but certainly not all, Mongols
are of Mexican ancestry. They have begun to maintain club-
houses but some chapters still meet in members’ homes or
favorite bars. Each chapter has a flag with its own insignia.
They are quick to anger, but relatively impoverished com-
pared to the other major groups.
The Mongols are rapidly expanding by absorbing smaller
clubs and recruiting from Hispanic street gangs. Their power
base lies in central and southern California but the club has
charters in the southeast United States, Canada, Mexico, and
Italy. Their ascendance is based partly on their ability to
successfully hold their own against HAMC but may be but-
tressed by growing Mexican involvement in methampheta-
The Sons of Silence are much smaller in overall numbers
but have chapters spread from Minnesota to Colorado and
Leathers and Rolexs 23
TABLE 2 Smaller One Percent Clubs
origin Colors Emblem
North American charters
indicates state of origin World charters
Iron Horsemen 1969 Yellow &
Winged horsehead Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana,
New York, Tennessee
Renegades 1970 Purple &
Indian skull with
Indiana (2), Florida (7),
Georgia (1), Ohio(4),
North Carolina (1),
Tennessee (1), Virginia (2)
Sons of Silence 1966 Black &
Bald eagle with
club name &
Arkansas (1), Colorado(3),
Kansas (?), Minnesota (1)
Scorpions 1966 Black &
Scorpion Michigan, North Carolina,
(A German club uses the same
name but different insignia
and has no known
Vagos 1966 Green Norse God
California Claim to be international but
no charters outside U.S. can
Warlocks 1967–8 Orange,
Florida (7), South
Carolina (4), Virginia (1),
West Virginia (1)
England (1), Germany (1)
from Florida to Kansas. Their main bases of operation are in
Colorado, Minnesota, and Florida, and they claim a German
chapter as well. The quietest of the large clubs, their egalitar-
ianism has a purist warmth that the Outlaws sometimes lack.
Their Latin motto Donec Mors Non Separa (tr. ‘‘Death does
not separate’’) appears on a white circle with black lettering
with a realistic eagle. The circle is usually mounted on a red
rectangle. They appear to actively encourage interaction
with men in, or recently separated from, military service.
The Sons are too small and far flung a club to maintain long
standing hostilities with Big Four groups, but have fought
each of them (and the Mongols) on occasion.
The core of the original Warlocks MC were Vietnam era
Navy veterans located in central Florida. They now have
chapters in several southern states, Germany, and England.
(Members of a club by the same name in the mid-Atlantic
area abandoned their affiliation with the Pagans and took
Outlaw colors in 2005. It is unclear whether remaining
members were able to maintain this Warlock group
[McGarvey 2006]). Like the Sons, the Florida-based Warlocks
actively encourage interaction with military personnel. Their
colors employ a stylized red, orange, and yellow blazing
eagle. The club is reputed to have ties to the HAMC (St Marys
Table 2 describes some of the less well known one percent
clubs. These clubs have complex relations with one another
as well as with the larger, more dominant clubs. They are,
however, independent entities that often reflect the purist
values of the subculture’s origin in less diluted form than
do the more entrepreneurial groups. However, all club-level
generalizations are tenuous because each chapter is semi-
autonomous. Links to other groups, as well as tolerance for
various forms of crime, vary widely across members and
chapters of the same club.
CLUB RIVALRIES AND ALLIANCES
Interclub alliances are often the product of rivalries with a
common enemy. The Detroit-based Scorpions had a long bit-
ter rivalry with the Outlaws that drove them into alignment
with the HAMC (CISC 2002) just as the Warlocks chose to
align with the HAMC to fend off the Pagans and Outlaws.
Leathers and Rolexs 25
Such affiliations are unstable, however, and often have
multiple facets. The Scorpions are identified as an HAMC-
affiliated drug ring by the Canadian Intelligence Service, an
oversimplification common among law enforcement. The
Outlaws, Bandidos, and Mongols are united by their intense
hatred of the Angels, but Mongol–Bandido access to high-
quality methamphetamine produced in Mexico probably
also plays a role. A cycle of warfare, mounting losses, public
outrage, and prosecutions, followed by lulls and truces, has
persisted between the HAMC and these other clubs for over
twenty years (Quinn and Forsyth 2007; Brown 1999).
The idea that my enemy’s enemy is my friend creates
quick alliances in both biker and cold war settings but rarely
produces trusting, long-lived partnerships. Members and cli-
ques from different clubs do, at times, create joint enterprises
for anywhere from a few days to a lifetime, however. The
Mongols, Outlaws, and Bandidos maintain reasonably civil
relations and have linked to one anothers’ websites, but
increasingly encroach on each others’ territory. Any civility
among them derives mainly from their hatred of the Hells
Angels and tensions are ever-present.
Animosity between the Angels and Outlaws goes back to
at least the early 1960s but became a major issue in the
1970s when expansion placed the clubs in close proximity
to one another. The Outlaws were the main rivals of the
HAMC for many years, but international losses, leadership
changes, and federal prosecutions have weakened them.
The conflict between the Bandidos and Angels was most
apparent in Canada and Scandinavia in the 1990s, but ten-
sion between the clubs is cyclical in the United States. The
Bandidos, now the second most powerful one percent club,
founded a new chapter in Washington that violated a treaty
with the HAMC that resolved the Scandinavian war of the
late 1990s. In 2000 the HAMC held a world run in Montana
(Jamison 2000a), a state claimed by the Bandidos, In 2007
the Bandidos held a national rally in northern Arizona (Coco-
nino Co. Sheriff’s Office 2007), a state claimed by the rival
HAMC, for which no Bandidos charter has ever been issued.
A similar growth of tension between the Pagans and HAMC
has already been described.
Rivalries run deep among these clubs, and hatred of the
Angels has become widespread in the last fifteen years.
26 J. F. Quinn and C. J. Forsyth
The Outlaws and Bandidos were sister clubs in the 1980s
when they shared some basic structural features (e.g., a sin-
gle national president rather than council governance) and
seriously discussed merging. Organizational problems
among the Bandidos, especially between the U.S. leadership
and foreign chapters (Brown 1999; Haut 1999), made the
Outlaws hesitant to merge. There were also serious local
conflicts over members’ involvement in drug distribution
(e.g., Winterhalder 2005). A series of setbacks in the
Outlaws’ bid to move into eastern Canada, due to the police
efforts as well as the animosity of the HAMC, discouraged
merger, as did leadership changes in both clubs. Club presi-
dents are rarely powerful enough to be described as crime
bosses (e.g., Davis 1982), but their diplomatic intentions
can be crucial to interclub relations and the general tone
of club behavior. The loss of personal power that always
accompanies organizational mergers was also a factor.
One percenters rely heavily on symbols set deeply in the
consciousness of western civilization. The Outlaws patch is
clearly derived from the skull and crossbones of the pirate
flag. Mongol colors utilize the same color scheme with an
ancient Asian leader whose reputation is as ferocious as that
of any pirate. Most one percent clubs use red, indicative of
blood, fraternal bonds, and courage, and=or black, which
connotes danger, evil, and death. Norse themes are also
common in these clubs and predate their linkage with white
supremacy by decades. The HAMC’s name and death’s head
was adapted from American military history (Jamison 2000b;
The subculture is an amalgam of subterranean values
drawn from other entities (e.g., hippies, transnational cor-
porations) with little regard for the larger system of values
in which those activities were nested. The independence
and machismo associated with motorcycling is exacerbated
by the edgework of one percent bikers seeking personal sta-
tus and group honor. The violence of the lower class street
gang reached new extremes in the diverse, but socially iso-
lated, saloon society environment. Once established in that
milieu, some one percenters used their reputation for ferocity
Leathers and Rolexs 27
and solidarity to follow American corporations around the
Superficially most one percenter values, behaviors, and
symbols are indicative of their countercultural origins. Once
the demands of motorcycling are accounted for, however, the
modern one percenter is less alien than he first appears. The
subculture is more thoroughly grounded in Anglo-American
culture and its symbols than many would like to admit.
One percenters borrow freely from the mainstream as they
simultaneously react against its constraints in search of a
sense of safety born in power. Although much of their beha-
vior is reprehensible, their values provide a dark mirror that
reflects the shadow side of American culture.
Bandidos MC. 2008. ‘‘Guestbook.’’ Available at (http://www.bandi-
Barger, Ralph, ‘‘Sonny’’ with Keith and Kent Zimmerman. 2000. Hell’s
Angels. New York: Harper Collins.
Barker, Thomas. 2004. ‘‘Exporting American Organized Crime—Outlaw
Motorcycle Gangs.’’ Journal of Gang Research 11(2):37–50.
———. 2005. ‘‘One Percent Bikers Clubs: A Description.’’ Trends in
Organized Crime 9(1):101–112.
———. 2007. Biker Gangs And Organized Crime. Florence, KY:
Bay, Joi. 1989. ‘‘Honor and Shame in the Culture of Danish Outlaw
Bikers.’’ Reno, Nevada: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of
the American Society of Criminology (November).
Black, Donald. 1984. ‘‘Crime as Social Control.’’ Pp. 1–28. In Toward a
General Theory of Social Control: Selected Problems (Volume 2),
edited by Donald Black. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.
Brown, Peggy. 1999. ‘‘Nordic Motorcycle Gangs.’’ International
Criminal Police Review 38:474–475.
Cavasos, Ruben and Andy Meisler. 2008. Respect Few, Fear None.
New York: HarperCollins.
Coconino Co., Sheriff’s Office. 2007. Arizona Law Enforcement Imple-
ments Unified Response to Bandidos Motorcycle Run (Press Release).
Flagstaff AZ. August 19. Available at (www.coconino.az.gov). Last
viewed November 6, 2007.
1010Q5 Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC). 1999. Annual Report on
Organized Crime in Canada, 1999. Ottawa: Criminal Intelligence
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JAMES F. QUINN is a Professor and serves as Director of the Addictions program at the
University of North Texas. He is a criminologist who has authored more than 25 scholarly
articles and five books on topics including sex offending=addiction, gangs, corrections,
offender treatment, and the drugs–crime connection. Dr. Quinn has worked with various
entities on community participation in corrections, offender reintegration, and criminal
justice planning issues. His efforts have been officially commended by the Center for Gang
Research, the Texas Legislature, and the Texas Parole division.
CRAIG J. FORSYTH is Professor and the Head of the Department of Criminal Justice and
Professor of Sociology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He received his Ph.D.
from Louisiana State University in 1983. He is the author of over 180 journal articles, books,
and book chapters. His principle research interests are in the areas of deviance and crime.
Leathers and Rolexs 31