Rules the Hells Angels Make Their Members Follow

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Neville Elder/Getty Images

The Hells Angels are perhaps the most widely known motorcycle club in the world. Apart from their chapters spread across the United States, the Hells Angels also have powerful charters practically everywhere around the globe, including New Zealand, Canada and England.

Due to the club’s affinity for crimes and violence, some countries like the Netherlands have banned the biker gang. Ironically, it’s actually a solid set of rules and bylaws that hold this fearsome group together.

No Hells Angels Biker Gets Left Behind

If there’s a group that exemplifies the motto "One for all and all for one," it’s the Hells Angels. Widely recognized as a group that travels in packs, it can be extremely intimidating to hail them for traffic violations. In case a courageous law enforcement official does try it, then they’ll probably be faced with the entire gang — not just the person the officer hailed to stop.

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Photo Courtesy: Gerrit Burow/Flickr

While this is kind of an intimidation tactic, it’s written in the bylaws of the Hells Angels. That is, if one of them gets pulled over by the cops, everyone else must pull over too.

They Say “No” to Drugs

Considering that Hells Angels members are often associated with criminals and illegal activities, it’s interesting to learn that one of their rules is to stay away from substance abuse. The biker gang’s Toronto chapter explicitly states that members are forbidden from any use or even contact with substances. Using needles "for pleasure" is also a big no-no for the group.

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Photo Courtesy: Michael Longmire/Unsplash

This rule is in line with the claims of Hells Angels members that the biker groups are not gangs. Instead, they’re formed to provide an environment and organize social events for motorcycle enthusiasts in various locations.

Democracy Rules for the Angels

Hells Angels chapters are as exclusive as any motorcycle gang can get. No other group can claim a more stringent and rigid process. A person seeking membership in this notorious club will need to pass so many stages before becoming a fully recognized member. Every applicant undergoes a series of tests before being awarded full patches.

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Photo Courtesy: Richard Eriksson/Flickr

Simply put, you need to earn your place on the Hells Angels roster. This means investing your energy and time to gain the approval of the members, who will then vote on your standing in the club.


To Hells Angels, No Means No

The Hells Angels have a strict code against sexual assault. Despite their scary and intimidating reputation, this group imposes a zero-tolerance rule on any funny business. That is, members must respect women's choices, particularly when it comes to relations with them.

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Photo Courtesy: Helmuts Rudzītis/Flickr

Any member hoping to retain good standing with the Hells Angels organization is expected to learn to understand that no means no. Although rejection of your advances can feel demeaning, the group expects its members to uphold positive values. They don’t appreciate members acting out against the opposite sex, regardless of the situation.

They Stick to a Dress Code

Although being a Hells Angel is primarily about the attitude and the lifestyle, the group’s image plays a big role in the way others perceive them. This is why every member is expected to look the part. In fact, one of the most important membership requirements is strict adherence to the dress code.

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Photo Courtesy: Scott Olson/Getty Images

While some chapters may have relaxed their rules about this, the general guideline when it comes to their "uniform" is simple. Members must wear black pants, black shirts and the famous black vest. Shorts, even if they’re black, are not allowed.

It’s an All-Boys’ Club

The majority of outlaw biker gangs don’t permit women to become fully fledged members or even join their activities. Generally, only men are allowed to join and participate in official events — and the Hells Angels are no exception to this.

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Photo Courtesy: William Morris/Public Domain Pictures

No woman is allowed to ride with the members of the biker gang. Women are also barred from joining any official gathering. Rival group Bandidos MC also strictly bans women from becoming full members. Instead, these women are considered associates. Despite the ban, everyone knows it would be foolish to challenge a gang associate — be it a man or a woman.


Only Harleys Are Accepted

Given that the Hells Angels are a widely known motorcycle club, it goes without saying that one of their primary requirements is for the members to own a bike. However, not all bikes are accepted in this club. True to their age-old tradition, Hells Angels members can only ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

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Photo Courtesy: Cristian Janke/Flickr

While this long-running rule has been in effect since the club started, some chapters allow motorcycles by Buell, which Harley-Davidson owns. In comparison, some biker gangs allow other brands as long as these are American made to enforce patriotism among members.

They Try to Avoid Media Exposure

One of the main reasons for the public’s fascination with the Hells Angels organization is the group’s mysterious and enigmatic aura. The whole cloak-and-dagger image is mostly thanks to the longstanding rule of limiting their interaction with the media.

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Photo Courtesy: R. Nial Bradshaw/Flickr

While it could be said that this precautionary measure is an excellent way to protect the club’s secrets from the world, many believe that this rule is implemented for security reasons. Given the group's alleged involvement in various illicit activities, this is hardly surprising. It appears that the Hells Angels believe in the saying, "Less talk, less mistake."

They Stay in Their Lanes

Despite their reputation for being a disruptive and unruly group, many Hells Angels are actually extremely organized when it comes to their own events. If you ever get the chance to witness members riding down your block, you can immediately spot how well-structured they are.

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Photo Courtesy: Tee Cee/Flickr

This is because the Hells Angels follow a strict order in their rides, with or without an official event going on. The arrangement of the riders is based on seniority. In front, you can spot the chapter's president and the road captain. Meanwhile, the prospects are typically situated behind everyone else in the formation.


Prison Connections Aren’t Allowed

Although not definitively proven, people often associate Hells Angels with criminal activities. This is perhaps why one of the rules is never to accept anyone who has or has had any connection with law enforcement.

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Photo Courtesy: Bruce Emmerling/Pixabay

It doesn’t matter how long ago it was or how long your association existed with the authorities. The biker group will reportedly turn down any aspiring member who has worked for the police or in prison. You don't even have to be employed by these authorities to be disqualified. Even an application for these jobs would eliminate you from the list of prospects.

They Don’t Answer Questions About How to Join

The Hells Angels reek of exclusivity, so much so that the FAQ section on their website refuses to tell any curious visitor how to become a member of the club. In fact, the biker group goes as far as telling would-be applicants that if they have to ask, then they "probably will not understand the answer."

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Photo Courtesy: sfbaywalk/Flickr

Basically, becoming a member requires a connection with someone who’s already a Hells Angels rider. However, knowing someone isn’t a surefire way to obtain membership. You’ll need to climb the ladder on your own, a process that could take years to complete.

They Live Life on Their Bikes

Given that it’s a motorcycle gang, Hells Angels members are required to spend a substantial amount of time on the road and away from their families. Some reports claim that members are expected to ride roughly 12,000 miles every year to maintain standing in the club.

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Photo Courtesy: Jack Snell/Flickr

That means members spend way less time at home. Aside from the time they’re required to put in riding with the Hells Angels, the club also demands the presence of all the members at official events. This group stands strictly by the definition of being true bikers.


No Narcs Are Allowed

No group likes a narc, and notorious biker gangs especially don’t appreciate anyone squealing about their undercover activities to the authorities. Hence, club members are required to do everything they can to protect the group's secrets.

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Photo Courtesy: Gerrit Burow/Flickr

Even when apprehended, no member should ever incriminate a fellow Hells Angels biker or even hint at any involvement with the club as a whole. Narcs will be punished the moment the group learns about the betrayal. Between the punishment from the police and from the club, it's safe to say that Hells Angels members choose to remain loyal to the club.

The Patches Demand Respect

Full-fledged members are granted patches. The moment a prospect receives his patches is a significant one because it represents his full membership status in the Hells Angels organization. However, these are no ordinary patches.

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Photo Courtesy: Steve Thorne/Getty Images

For Hells Angels, these patches are the ultimate symbols of life in the club. Hence, these are treated with utmost respect. Some doctors claim that members of the gang refused to have their clothes cut for fear of damaging the patches despite a medical emergency. Apart from the patches, newly minted members are usually given a leather jacket or a vest.

Non-Members Can’t Wear Merch

The rule against desecrating their patches runs deeply in the club’s values and is upheld at all times — even in life-or-death situations. Not only do Hells Angels members ban anyone from using the patches, but they also enforce the same rule on other official merchandise.

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Photo Courtesy: Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr

That means non-members aren't allowed to wear jackets or vests with the logos or the name of the organization. The biker gang doesn’t tolerate people who wear their merch without being an actual member. They view this as impersonating their group, so "impostors" are advised to get rid of their merch.


Absences Aren’t Allowed

Becoming a Hells Angels member is a commitment that every person in the group takes very seriously. This is why the motorcycle club is extremely strict when it comes to attendance at meetings and other gatherings.

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Photo Courtesy: SliceofNYC/Flickr

Although some exceptions are accommodated, such as severe sickness or a legitimate work-related excuse, Hells Angels view it as a sign of disrespect to the organization and club duties when a member fails to show up at official gatherings. Hence, even the oldest and most established members see to it that they’re in attendance for these meetings.

Absolute Loyalty Is Expected

No other gang enforces strict exclusivity the way the Hells Angels organization does. So, the group also expects the same from the people they let into the exclusive club. This means no Hells Angels member should take part in the activities of another gang — be it a rival group or an ally.

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Photo Courtesy: Matt McGee/Flickr

This is actually explicitly stated on the club’s website, with the group warning members to "never combine your support for Hells Angels with other clubs or street gangs." Because being a Hells Angels member is a commitment, utmost and unwavering loyalty is demanded from those who wear the patches.

Site Developers Must Ask for Permission Before Linking

While other websites revel in backlinking opportunities to boost their reputations, the Hells Angels organization does not. For this motorcycle group, their image is far more important than gaining traffic on the web. This is why you need written consent from the group before you’re allowed to link to its site.

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Photo Courtesy: Lisa Fotios/Pexels

It doesn’t even matter if you’re a member or not. No one is exempt from this rule. The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club will only allow you to link to the official website if it finds your content acceptable and in line with the group’s particular image and brand.


Once Someone’s an Angel, He’s Always an Angel

Another unique thing about the Hells Angels community is the fact that no member can ever retire. That is, you’re a Hells Angels member for life, no matter how old you get. If you found the steps towards completing the membership requirement challenging and strenuous, then you’ll see any attempt to quit the Hells Angels club is even more difficult.

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Photo Courtesy: Peakpx

Members are expected to view their relationship with the club as a lifetime commitment. Evidently, this isn’t the type of group you can simply sign up for so you can test it out and see where it leads, then leave if things don’t work out.

There’s No Apostrophe

Grammar gurus have been itching to correct the name of the group for years. Interestingly, this was intentional. The Hells Angels website says, "Missing apostrophe in Hells Angels? Yes, we know that there is an apostrophe missing but it is you who miss it. We don’t."

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Photo Courtesy: Janek Skarzynski/Getty Images

According to the group, the name was inspired by fighter squadrons during WWI and WWII. Explaining why no apostrophe is needed for the word "Hells," the members shared that they’re referring to the plural sense of the word. This is because they believe that there are various types of "hell."

Membership Is a Privilege

The process of becoming a member requires years of dedication to the club and humble submission to the whims of its leaders. Aspiring candidates start as "hang-arounds," which refers to the people invited to select meetings or to hang out with some members. If it turns out well, a hang-around then becomes an "associate."

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Photo Courtesy: Picture Alliance/Getty Images

After that, he turns into a "prospect." This means he’s now a gofer of the Hells Angels members. Prospects can be easily spotted because that word is stitched on their vests or jackets. Their clothes also don’t have the words "Hells Angels" or the logo.


They Burn Tattoos Off Kicked-out Members

Image is a huge deal for the Hells Angels organization. Some people wonder how the group keeps everyone in line, especially given the personality types and backgrounds of various members. It’s simple. The Hells Angels follow a strict code of discipline.

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Photo Courtesy: Mathis Wienand/Getty Images

For those who violate too many rules, the club can decide if expulsion should be enforced. Expulsion from the Hells Angels may include burning off any tattoos someone has that refer to the group. It's their way of erasing any trace of the gang from someone’s life.

Nobody Owns His Vest

Membership in this exclusive biker gang can bring many privileges. The sheer fear they get from the public alone encourages a number of people to join the group. This is why members proudly wear their merch even when they’re not out riding with the club.

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Photo Courtesy: Scott Olson/Getty Images

However, a universal rule of the Hells Angels organization dictates that no member owns the vest. Instead, the Hells Angels organization owns it, along with all the other merch that has the name and logo of the group. This rule is actually included in the welcome pamphlets sent to newly minted members.

They Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk

The first requirement of becoming a Hells Angels member is to have the right personality type. This is actually really important; it means sharing the same interests and hobbies as the other members of the group. Apart from the Hells Angels organization, groups like Bandidos MC and Outlaws MC also demand this attitude from their applicants.

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Photo Courtesy: Daniel Thurler/Unsplash

Becoming a Hells Angels member essentially means living your life as a dedicated Harley-Davidson rider. So, it’s definitely critical that you’re passionate about this lifestyle. Otherwise, riding your bike all day long could feel like a chore.


No Child Molesters Are Allowed

Hells Angels members absolutely abhor child molesters. Despite their scary image and intimidating brand, the biker gang actually holds events and schedules rides for charity fairly regularly. In fact, children-oriented charity programs seem to hold a special spot among these tough riders.

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Photo Courtesy: US Embassy Canada/Flickr

One particularly heartwarming story took place in 2014, when Hells Angels riders camped out at a Walmart in California waiting for the Black Friday sale. When the store opened, shoppers were surprised when the biker gang members bought over 200 bicycles. They later learned that the toys were donated to a nonprofit for the homeless called Poverello House.

They Say “No” to Racism

The Hells Angels organization decries racism and denies involvement in racial segregation. However, the biker group admits that it does have racist members, something that’s out of its control. Because the majority of members are white, other races tend to stay away from them and form their own gangs.

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Photo Courtesy: Max Pixel

However, many Hells Angels members welcome other races. Some powerful members of the club were also associated with African-American gang members in the past.

They Look Out for Each Other

When a potential candidate is considered for membership in the Hells Angels, the member associated with him is expected to vouch for his behavior throughout the screening process no matter how long it takes. This member must be aware of the candidate’s activities and connections; a mistake or a violation would reflect poorly on his standing as well.

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Photo Courtesy: Mathis Wienand/Getty Images

Only when the candidate passes all stages — namely being a hang-around, an associate and a prospect — can the sponsoring Hells Angels member be considered off the hook. Once the prospect becomes a full-fledged member, he can eventually sponsor his own candidate.


The Name Has a Number

This isn’t really a rule or a bylaw. Instead, it's a pretty cool and interesting piece of trivia about the name of the Hells Angels organization. Among the members of this notorious biker gang, the club is called "HAMC." Aside from this name, the group is also internally referred to as "81."

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Photo Courtesy: Chris Huggins/Flickr

The number "81," which is continuously present in all the merch linked to the club, represents something significant. This is because the eighth letter of the alphabet is "H," and the first letter is "A." Hence, "81" is actually shorthand for the name "Hells Angels."

They Don't Play Well With Others

Biker gangs — regardless of their size and notoriety — don’t play well with others. In fact, turf wars have become extremely bloody in some areas — so much so that the authorities feel powerless to control the damage. Needless to say, the Hells Angels are no different.

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Photo Courtesy: Neville Elder/Getty Images

Perhaps the best way to show how unwilling the group is to share territory is the reason for the imprisonment of one of the founders, Ralph "Sonny" Barger. According to reports, Sonny was sent to federal prison for four years because he was found guilty for conspiring to set off explosives in a rival gang’s clubhouse.

It’s Not Like the Movies

When Hollywood started taking an interest in the law-defying lifestyle of biker gangs, a lot of men thought it would be simple to become part of clubs like the Hells Angels. In particular, several would-be members imagined themselves living the life of Marlon Brando’s character in the 1953 classic The Wild One.

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Photo Courtesy: Oleg Magni/Pexels

The Hells Angels slammed these fanciful ideas and clarified that the group isn’t some "free-spirited" club that anyone can join. This is perhaps why they tightened membership requirements and eventually decided to enforce stricter rules to retain memberships.