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The Rebels

The Rebels: A Brotherhood of Outlaw Bikers

Daniel R. Wolf
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 372
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  • Book Info
    The Rebels
    Book Description:

    To study the phenomenon of outlaw biker clubs, anthropologist Daniel Wolf bridged the gap between image and reality by becoming an insider.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2816-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Part One Freedom and Protest:: The Seductive World of Biking

    • 1 Introduction: Entering the World of the Outlaw
      (pp. 3-29)

      A midnight run shatters the night air. Thirty Harley-Davidson motorcycles stretch out for a quarter-mile, thundering down the highway. The pack moves in tight formation, advancing as a column of staggered twos. Veteran riders make sure there are fifteen yards between themselves and the bikes they are riding behind, three yards and a 45-degree angle between themselves and the bikes they are riding beside. Thirty men ride in boots and jeans, leathers and cut-off denim jackets, beards and long hair, tattoos and earrings, buck knives and chain belts. Each rider follows the grimacing skull on the back patch of the...

    • 2 Biker: Building an Identity
      (pp. 30-62)

      Becoming a biker constitutes a search for identity. At the least, it leads to a mechanical pastime and high-speed thrills; at the most, it can lead to the creation of a meaningful lifestyle. The outlaw biker is a product of urban industrial society. A survey of the socio-economic background of bikers furthermore indicates that becoming a biker is a class-specific response to the general problem of self-actualization. Whether outlaw bikers are loners or club patch holders, they tend to come from the lower working class. None of the Rebels or any of the bikers with whom I associated during my...

  5. Part Two Becoming an Outlaw:: The Group-Socialization Process

    • 3 Friend of the Club: Forming Bonds of Brotherhood
      (pp. 65-87)

      If a man successfully impresses club members as a righteous biker, he may be given the opportunity to proceed to the next developmental stage in becoming an outlaw patch holder, ‘friend of the club.’ Friends of the club are bikers who have no official club affiliation, and who may have no intentions of ever striking for the club, yet have established friendship ties with several members. As friends they are invited to attend club parties, runs, and related club activities. Collectively, these friends of the club become part of the club’s extended social network. They constitute an informal but significant...

    • 4 Striker: Earning One’s Colours
      (pp. 88-109)

      The striking period is a socializing process. It is made up of a series of learning and testing situations that ultimately serve to integrate the prospective member into the club: ‘A striker has to learn how to be a Rebel’ (Voodoo, Rebels mc). These learning and testing procedures draw the prospect or striker into three discernible dimensions of club participation. First, on a personal level, the prospect adopts a system of core values that are specific to the outlaw-club subculture. Second, on an interpersonal level, the prospect is incorporated into a network of informal social relations. Third, on an institutional...

    • 5 Initiate: Becoming a Patch Holder
      (pp. 110-128)

      All outlaw clubs mark the formal incorporation of a new member with some form of initiation ritual. The man is near the end of a series of transformations in his personal status and identity. He began as a citizen, a ‘wanna-be’ who separated himself emotionally and symbolically from the dominant society when he became a biker. The transition continued when he affiliated as a friend of the club who was then allowed to become a striker in order to earn his colours. The final stage is his accceptance into the club and the lives of his brothers as a patch...

  6. Part Three The Dynamics of Outlaw Sex and Gender

    • 6 Women and the Outlaws
      (pp. 131-162)

      The newest and fastest-growing phenomenon on the asphalt highways of contemporary North America is the solo female rider. Every year more and more women are turning to motorcycles and motorcycling,on their own. For the purpose of mutual companionship and support these sisters of the highway have begun to organize themselves in groups that are independent of males. The following is an excerpt from a letter to the editorial section ofV-Twinmagazine: ‘Our name is Against All Odds mc and our patches will consist of the Queen of Hearts playing card in the background. In front will be two...

  7. Part Four Living in an Outlaw Biker’s World

    • 7 The Clubhouse: Patch-Holder Haven
      (pp. 165-179)

      A clubhouse is outlaw headquarters. It is here, ideally in an isolated location behind well-protected walls, that the patch holders conduct their formal business. The patch holders’ initial search for a clubhouse will be a search for a place to do business, party, and crash, all necessary to keeping the members together. While it begins as a staging area for social events, the clubhouse eventually comes to represent a place of refuge for the members. A clubhouse reinforces the outlaw community by providing the members with a sense of permanency and structure. Patch holders come to view the clubhouse as...

    • 8 The Club Bar: Booze, Borders, and Brawls
      (pp. 180-209)

      Outlaw bikers isolate themselves from the citizens of the society that surrounds them. Their social isolation places contradictory demands on the group. The club can defend its integrity only by maintaining clear boundaries between itself and the community, but the club can perpetuate itself only by crossing those same boundaries in order to attract new members.

      Outlaw clubs deal with this dilemma by establishing a ‘club bar.’ This is a public tavern that members use as a regular drinking spot and rendezvous point. The club bar has become an integral part of the outlaw-biker tradition. It complements the clubhouse, the...

    • 9 The Club Run: Brothers in the Wind
      (pp. 210-244)

      An outlaw biker considers himself a romantic. He carries a strong mental image of himself: leaning back on his motorcycle, feet up on highway pegs, his girl tucked in behind him, bedroll and camping gear strapped to the backrest, mountains in front of him and troubles far behind, flying down a lonesome stretch of grey highway, riding in the wind again. The club run adds a key social dimension to this image. The outlaw patch holder is not a loner; he has his brothers beside him.

      A club run is a motorcycle tour where members ride together as a group....

  8. Part Five Making It All Work:: Economic and Political Realities

    • 10 Outlaw Economics: Financing a Subculture
      (pp. 247-270)

      It costs money to run an outlaw club, more money than the average citizen might think. The Rebels need cash continually to meet expenditures that are characteristic of all outlaw motorcycle clubs.

      The most expensive item is the clubhouse, since members have to rent or buy and furnish a building. When the Rebels first began in 1969, they didn’t have a large bankroll. The neophyte club rotated its first meetings among members’ houses and garages. The Rebels stabilized their financial position in the early seventies. During the winter, they would rent inexpensive houses in industrial areas and houses scheduled for...

    • 11 Political Organization: The Structure and Distribution of Power
      (pp. 271-305)

      All outlaw patch holders confront the paradox of how to reconcile the biker freedom ethic with the necessity of group conformity. Joining an outlaw motorcycle club is a voluntary act, and the member believes that club life gives him the kind of personal and social freedom he wants. His image of the outlaw biker is one of a folk hero, a symbol of individual freedom, especially from the routine of financial and family responsibilities: ‘They’re [non-bikers] just jealous of the freedom we have,’ said Clayton of the Rebels. ‘We don’t get into this “society trip” where you get tied down...

    • 12 Territoriality: Alliance, Invasion, Warfare
      (pp. 306-338)

      The two Rebels stood in the shadows of the parking lot outside the Bonaventure Motor Inn. Steve and Clayton were waiting for a man to come out from the bar. This man rode a Harley; he was a biker and a patch holder who shared their lifestyle. These Rebels had more in common with him than with anyone else in the bar. But there would be no biker handshake of brotherhood. Steve was the club sergeant at arms, and he knew that it was his responsibility to break this man. The reason? The man wore the wrong patch. As the...

    • 13 Conclusion: Retrospect and Prospect
      (pp. 339-350)

      This decade of the nineties marks the first half-century of the existence of outlaw motorcycle clubs. As of 1990, there are approximately 900 outlaw clubs in North America, and the phenomenon is now international in scope. Outlaw clubs have diffused into major urban centres in the European countries of Great Britain, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, and, more recently, to South America, Australia, and New Zealand – even in Tokyo, Japan, a group of indigenous bikers applied for a charter from the Hell’s Angels mc … Application denied. If you rode your motorcycle...

  9. Appendices

    • Appendix A: Motorcycle Club Constitutions
      (pp. 351-360)
    • Appendix B: Summary Guide and Activity Chart for Group Participation
      (pp. 361-364)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 365-366)
  11. Index
    (pp. 367-372)