If you’ve ever seen a group of motorcycles roll through town, you’ve probably noticed biker tattoos. They often cover all parts of the body, even the face.
This type of ink has a fascinating history that dates back to when marking your skin was taboo. In fact, at one point, it was illegal.
Today we’ll dive deeper into the history of biker tattoos and what they mean.
The History of Biker Tattoos
Biker tattoos have a rich history dating back to the 1940s and 1950s when motorcycle culture first emerged in the US. At the time, veterans returning from World War II were looking for a sense of community and belonging, and many found it in the world of motorcycles.
Gangs like the Hells Angels and the Outlaws formed during this time. Getting their logo inked on your skin quickly became a popular way for members to express their loyalty. The designs often featured bold, masculine decor like skulls, flames, and dragons.
As motorcycle culture developed over the years, tattoos became increasingly popular. They spread beyond just gang members to anyone with the rebellious spirit they represented. Today, they’re still a common way to express a connection to the community.
Overall, the allure of biker culture has always been rooted in a sense of freedom and independence. The tattoos that go along with it are a way for people to express that spirit and be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Why Do Bikers Get Tattoos?
Motorcycle groups have always been about community and connecting with others over shared interests. But they also provided stability and discipline for people who couldn’t find it elsewhere.
Tattoos allowed bikers to strengthen their bond and demonstrate their character. The more ink they had, the tougher they looked. They opted for symbols representing speed, power, and masculinity. Flames, skulls, eagles, and sexy women were some of the most common imagery.
Because ink was taboo back then, it was also a way of snubbing social norms. As a result, many members wound up getting stick-and-poke designs in prison. The poor quality only made them look scarier.
Of course, now it’s more of a fashion statement, and many bikers have matching tats with their hogs. But quite a few of the secret symbols live on for people who are hardcore about the lifestyle.
5 Secret Types of Biker Tattoos
While some biker tattoos are meant to show off your team spirit, others are a little scary. Some of these marks are intimidating if you know what they mean.
#1 RFFR, BFFB, and AFFA Tattoos
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, or OMG, have long used various acronyms as a secret signal. AFFA, for example, means Angel Forever, Forever Angel. It’s often used to mark the passing of a brother from your club.
BFFB is similar but for the Bandidos rather than the Hells Angels. In RFFR, the R stands for rebels. These are simple ways to express loyalty to your clan.
Did You Know: This is why bikers wave by pointing fingers down.
#2 1% Tattoos
No, this doesn’t have anything to do with Wall Street. The term dates to the 1940s when the American Motorcycle Association said that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens. Criminal bikers adopted this term as a badge of honor. They began wearing a “1%” patch or tattoo to identify themselves as members of the community.
This mark signifies a commitment to living outside the norms of society and following a code of conduct unique to the lifestyle. While it’s often associated with criminal activity, many members of the outlaw community see it as a symbol of freedom and individuality.
#3 Brother’s Keeper and One In, All In Tattoos
These tattoos signify deep loyalty among members of the same club. They both imply that if you mess with one of them, you invite the wrath of all of them. These biker tattoos are associated with violent responses to ensure they maintain respect.
Of course, some contemporary clubs may keep this mindset but operate within the law. But that doesn’t mean you should test them. A motorcycle gang doesn’t have to break any rules to be intimidating when they want to be.
#4 13 Tattoos
It may be an unlucky number for some, but this biker tattoo has several alternative meanings. For most, it represents the 13th letter of the alphabet, M. But depending on the person, it could stand for several things. The most basic is a motorcycle.
But it can also represent marijuana or meth, and the symbol may mean you’re talking to a drug dealer. For some crew members, it can represent an outsider’s stance on the justice system. Rather than relying on 12 jurors and a judge, they form their own judgments.
#5 Biker Club Logo Tattoos
Every biker gang has its distinct logo, and getting a tattoo of one shows a deeper commitment than a patch. They have a standard format across every group. The top part has the club name, and the bottom has the chapter location, with the group’s symbol in the middle.
Luckily, these are usually self-explanatory. However, each gang uses very different symbolism for their logo. But don’t be surprised to see skulls, flags, or a Harley bike in there.
Now You’re In the Know
Tattoos are more socially acceptable these days, and you don’t have to be a biker to have matching ink with your friends. While some of the old designs live on, many have taken on new meanings over the years.
It may be difficult when seeing a unique tattoo, but it’s best not to stare or ask too many questions unless you’re close to the person. It’s always better to be polite than sorry.
More to read: The 5 Best Motorcycle Campers
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