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Fabric of Sturgis Rally woven with patches

Hells Angel
SDPB
/
Flickr
Among those riding at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a man wearing a Hells Angels back patch.

One of the most visible pieces of motorcycle culture is the practice of sewing patches to jackets and vests.

Haley Berube, who was sewing patches Wednesday for Sturgis rallygoers, represents the third generation of Cotters Leather, a Worcester, Massachusetts-based leather and stitching company.

Cotters attends the rally almost every year, and Berube explained what patches mean to those that ride.

"It varies widely, just as much as somebody would want something tattooed on them," Berube said. "It's very personal. A lot of times there will be 'Harley' or skulls or one-liners. The most often we see here are Sturgis patches, patches that tell what years they were here."

Berube says some biker vests get covered by patches quickly, rather than gradually.

"Some people will come to us with a brand new vest and want us to sew a bunch of patches on it because they want to look the part," Berube said. "That's more often than someone who innately would have that many patches on their vest from years and years of work."

However, Berube offers advice for encounters involving someone wearing a "One Percenter" patch — "show respect."

"One Percenter" patches are frequently worn by those involved with outlaw motorcycle clubs.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.