Why Are Motorcycle Vests Called Cuts?

Why Are Motorcycle Vests Called Cuts?

Posted by Team Motorcycle on Nov 10th 2023

As you observe motorcyclists riding down the highway or coming together at local biker bars, one item of attire you'll commonly notice is the sleeveless denim or leather vest. Referred to as "cuts" in biker culture, these vests symbolize club membership and solidarity. The patches, pins, and embroidery on cuts represent the hierarchy and history of motorcycle clubs.

Cuts are integral to biker identity and a badge of honor within the motorcycle community. However, have you ever wondered why these sleeveless jackets are called cuts and how they came to signify so much for bikers? Let’s explore the origins and cultural significance of cuts in biker culture.

The History Behind the Term "Cut" for Motorcycle Vests

The term “cut” originated in the early 20th century to describe the customized vests motorcycle club members wore. As motorcycling grew popular following World War I, riders began gathering in clubs and modifying their gear to reflect club affiliation and values.

  • Club vests, or cuts, featured the club’s name and logo prominently displayed on the back, along with patches indicating club membership status and achievements. The patches, known as “colors,” helped to foster a sense of belonging and conveyed information about the rider at a glance.
  • Cuts were adorned with patches, pins, and embellishments that communicated each rider’s experiences, personality, and dedication to the club. The more patches and adornments, the more seniority and respect the rider commanded. This tradition of decorating cuts with colors and other embellishments continues today in most motorcycle clubs.
  • The term “cut” is still commonly used to refer to the vests of patched members in motorcycle clubs, as these garments remain an essential way for riders to declare club allegiance. Cuts represent hard-earned membership in a close-knit community and a lifelong commitment to the club and fellow members.

How Motorcycle Club Vests Evolved Into Cuts

As motorcycle clubs gained popularity, their vests evolved to reflect the hierarchy and symbols of the club. These vests eventually became known as “cuts.”

Early Biker Cuts

In the 1950s, many bikers wore simple denim or leather vests to display their club name and logo. These early cuts were plain but helped identify fellow club members.

Addition of Patches

Over time, bikers added patches to signify rank within the club, length of membership, club location, and more. The top patch, known as the colors, featured the full club name and logo. The patches and the vest became symbols of loyalty, sacrifice, and the club's beliefs.

Modern Biker Cuts

Today's cuts are highly symbolic, featuring patches, pins, and embroidery that tell a story about the biker's dedication and accomplishments within their club. The layout and meaning of patches vary between clubs but always identify the biker as part of that club. For many bikers, their cut is a source of pride and a symbol of brotherhood. Cuts represent the history, values, and subculture of biker clubs.

The Significance and Meaning of Wearing a Cut Today

The cut, or motorcycle vest, holds deep significance for club members and signifies their dedication.

Representing the Club

The patches and symbols on a cut prominently display a rider's club affiliation and status. Prospects or potential new members may wear a cut to signify their aspiration to become full-fledged members. For established members, the cut embodies their allegiance and lifelong commitment to the club.

Wearing one's cut, especially in public, demonstrates pride in the club and a willingness to represent it. It allows members to recognize each other, foster camaraderie, and present a unified front. The cut transforms an individual into an ambassador for the club, responsible for upholding its values and reputation.

For many riders, the cut is integral to their identity and lifestyle. It connects them to a brotherhood and a way of life they hold dear. Though cuts were once purely functional, protecting from the elements, they now serve as meaningful symbols of belonging, solidarity, and shared experiences between club members.

The Different Styles of Cuts

There are several popular styles of biker cuts available today.

Leather Vests

Classic leather vests are the traditional biker cut, made of heavy leather and adorned with club patches or other patches of significance to the rider. These durable cuts provide protection and project an iconic biker image.

Men's Black Premium Cowhide Leather Biker Motorcycle Vest

The leather motorcycle vest offers both practicality and comfort for riders. It features a hidden concealed carry pocket with inside snaps for secure firearm storage, ensuring safety and accessibility. Crafted from ultra-soft and durable premium top-grain leather, it guarantees unmatched comfort and longevity. The 5 snap and zip front closure allows for a secure and adjustable fit.

With multiple pockets inside and out, including 4 outer and 2 inner pockets, riders can stay organized and easily carry their essentials, including a deep concealed carry pocket. The soft black nylon liner and black trim add comfort and style. Additionally, the one-panel back is ideal for personalizing the vest with patches or embroidery. The zipper is raised 3 inches from the bottom to enhance flexibility and ease while riding, allowing unrestricted movement, especially when seated on the bike.

Textile Vests

Textile vests are made of lighter, synthetic fabrics like nylon or polyester. More affordable and versatile than leather, these cuts come in various styles suitable for riding. Mesh vests, made primarily of breathable mesh fabrics, are ideal for hot summer riding.

Men's Black SOA Club Style Black Motorcycle Textile Vest

The Jafrum Men's Black SOA Club Style Motorcycle Textile Vest offers convenience and functionality. Its snap and zipper closure ensures quick and easy access, while the 2 chest pockets with snap closure provide secure storage for your belongings. The vest includes 2 hand warmer pockets with zipper closures for added warmth and style. Riders can carry their essentials safely in the 2 inside pockets equipped with a concealed carry gun pouch. The vest features a fixed mesh lining for enhanced durability, and the one-panel back allows for easy personalization with patches. It's a practical choice for riders seeking utility and style.

Denim Vests

Modern denim cuts are made of denim, often with leather patches and accents. A popular, casual style for everyday riding, denim cuts provide a classic biker look in a lighter, more comfortable fabric.

Men Black Jean Style Denim Motorcycle Vest

The Men's Black Jean Style Denim Motorcycle Vest features 5 front snaps with a brass finish, ensuring a secure closure and a rugged aesthetic. The fixed mesh lining provides breathability and comfort, making it ideal for extended rides. Crafted from quality, heavy denim, the vest guarantees durability and a rugged style that riders appreciate. The snap-style adjuster allows for a customized fit, ensuring comfort during your journey. For storage, the vest offers multiple pockets, including 2 inside concealed carry pockets, inside zipper pockets, 2 snap chest pockets, and 2 hands warmer pockets on the outside. The plain back panel also provides options for personalization, allowing riders to add their unique touch to the vest.

Vintage-style Cuts

Vintage-style cuts are made to replicate the cuts of the 1950s and 1960s. Usually made of leather or denim and adorned with retro patches, these cuts evoke the spirit of early biker history and culture.

The cut a motorcyclist chooses says a lot about their riding style and the image they want to project. From lightweight textiles to heavy leather and everything in between, many options fit any biker’s needs.

Choosing the Right Cut for Your Riding Needs

When choosing a motorcycle vest or “cut,” consider how you will primarily use the garment. Certain cuts are better suited for specific riding conditions and weather.

Touring Cuts

For long-distance riding, a touring cut is ideal. These cuts are designed with additional storage pockets and are usually made of heavier, weather-resistant leather or denim. Touring cuts provide more coverage and protection from the elements while riding.

Mesh or Perforated Cuts

If you frequently ride in hot weather, a mesh or perforated cut will maximize airflow to keep you cool. These cuts are made of breathable mesh fabrics and often include perforated leather panels. The increased ventilation is ideal for riding in warm climates or during summer.

Minimalist Cuts

For casual riding or commuting in mild weather, a minimalist cut with a streamlined design may suit your needs. These cuts typically have a slimmer profile with fewer pockets and embellishments. They are meant to provide basic coverage and protection without excess bulk. Materials are usually lighter, such as cotton or thin leather.

The cut you choose should suit the specific needs of your riding style and the weather conditions in which you most often ride. Consider factors like storage needs, weather protection, ventilation, and coverage to determine the proper cut. With options available in many styles, you can find a cut for all your riding adventures.


As you have learned, the term 'cut' has a long and rich history in biker culture. What started as a way for outlaw bikers to signify their club allegiance and intimidate others has evolved into a broader symbol of freedom, individuality, and counterculture identity for bikers worldwide.

Though cuts were initially meant as a claim of territory, today, many see them as a badge of honor and kinship. The cut is a visual representation of the open road and the adventures that await. For bikers, there is simply no other piece of clothing that carries the same weight and meaning. The cut is a symbol of the biker spirit itself.