What motorcycle club colors represent

Just like urban street gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs use their colors to make their affiliation public to both fellow gang members and rivals. Sometimes, OMGs even have actual colors to go along with their "colors." For example, Hells Angels wear red, and members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club wear green [source: Pugmire]. Motorcycle gangs are extremely territorial of what they consider their turf. They use displaying colors as a way to define that turf. In the 1980s and '90s, war waged between the Hells Angels and the Mongols for control of Southern California. When rival gangs like these tussle, they will try to remove and destroy the colors of their rivals by force [source: Glod].

If a gang member shows up in the wrong turf wearing rival colors, they have the choice to remove their colors, or face violence from the ruling gang. That's because wearing your colors in rival territory is seen as either a threat, or an all out declaration of war. For example, when the Black Pistons MC opened a chapter in Portland, Maine, in the 2000s, rival gangs swarmed the town. In this particular case, no violence erupted, but Hells Angels rode through town and loitered on the streets just to show their colors and make clear that the Black Pistons weren't welcome [source: Hench].

The OMGs don't hand out colors lightly, either. They can only be worn by fully initiated members, not by casual allies or even allied gangs. In order to earn the right to wear their colors, prospective club members have to go through a long, grueling initiation [source: Peirce]. "Initiates" have to do the bidding of all other club members, which could include anything from mundane tasks like laundry or cleaning up after gang members' messes. Of course, it can also involve criminal activity like stealing bikes or proving themselves in fights with bikers from rival clubs [source: Peirce].

Once members earn their colors, the patches themselves are considered almost sacred. OMG bikers pin their jackets to their clothes so that the colors attached can't be left behind on accident, or pulled off easily during a fight [source: Peirce]. Anybody who tries to leave an OMG, or who gets kicked out, has their colors revoked -- by any means necessary, including violence and even murder. Even group members' tattoos are enforced. Members have to get clearance from club leaders before they can have emblems tattooed on their bodies. If they ever want to leave the gang, they have to have the tattoos removed first [source: Peirce].