The Hells Angels are probably the most well-known biker club in the world. Starting with a group of motorcyclists back in 1948 in Fontana, California, the group has since expanded across the US and has hundreds of members. Some members have been known to break the law, but in order to receive and maintain membership, there are set guidelines they have to follow. And here are some of their rules.
Getting Voted In
The process of becoming a Hells Angel is long and arduous. It even says on their website that if you have to ask how to get in you “probably won’t understand the answer”. It takes years cultivating a relationship with the members of a charter and the only way to get in is when the rest of the group votes you in.
Investigative journalist Julian Sher went undercover to find out how people get into the Hells Angels. Prospective members start out as “hang arounds”. As the name suggests, they’re bikers that get invited to some Hells Angels events so that both parties can get a feel for one another. After this, before being officially inducted into the club, they become “prospects”. They even have this stitched into their vest. The tentative members then run errands and other odd jobs before becoming full-fledged members.
Showing Up At Club Events
While being recruited, a major part of the process is going to club events. The Hells Angels have a lot of meetings and hangouts every year. However, they have a strict attendance policy. If you miss too many events, it’s likely you won’t even make it past the “hanging around” phase.
Once you’re in the club, that’s when the hazing begins. You’re not allowed to retaliate against hazing, under any circumstance. And hazing can become a violent process. The Hells Angels’ bylaws say that this practice is not intended to belittle their prospective members, but if they can’t handle it, then they’re not worthy enough to continue initiation.
Once An Angel, Always An Angel
If you’re unsure about becoming a Hells Angel, it’s probably best you don’t become one. Because once you’re an Angel, you’re always an Angel. Members don’t retire and can only leave early if they break a rule and get kicked out. You’ve basically picked up a second family, spending much of your time with your charter. And when someone dies, they unite to honor their fallen comrade.
No Other Biker Clubs
This one should go without saying, but once you’re in the Hells Angels, you’re in for life. And that means you can’t join another biker club. Members also need to be careful about who they may associate with. Their website explicitly warns against associating with other clubs or street gangs if you’re unsure of their relationship with the Hells Angels.
As members of the Hells Angels rise through the club’s ranks, they’re given patches. They’re sacred symbols, on par with the vests themselves, and must be respected and well treated. The rules on protecting the patches are so strict that, supposedly, members must refuse to allow doctors to cut through them in times of emergency.
It varies from charter to charter, but the Hells Angels do have a dress code for its members. One member told Inside The Angel that he was only allowed to wear black jeans, shirts, and vests when he joined. Some charters don’t allow shorts, require all black clothing, or otherwise allow blue jeans or camouflage patterns. The exact style of dress can help you distinguish who’s from what charter.
Hells Angels riders can become quite large. They may even take up an entire street. However, they also have an order that they must maintain while riding. The road captain and charter president remain at the front. From there, the bikers are lined up based on seniority and rank. Older members are closer to the front, newer members and prospects are in the back.
Pull Over Together
Because of the aforementioned riding order, Hells Angels all pull over should one of them need to for any reason. It not only helps maintain their order, but also shows their sense of brotherhood. And, of course, people aren’t too likely to start trouble with a mass of bikers.
Can’t Work For Law Enforcement
The Hells Angels have a spotty record with law enforcement. Members actually aren’t allowed to work for prisons while members. Police officers also aren’t allowed to be members due to a perceived conflict of interest. After all, Hells Angels are known to occasionally engage in criminal activity.
Can’t Share Information On Other Members
Hells Angels also have a strict discretionary policy. Ratting out a fellow member, for any reason, means you’ll be kicked out of your charter. Their website clearly says, “We do not answer questions about members”. They won’t even answer questions about one that’s missing. Their secrecy is intended to keep members protected.
No Talking To The Media
Hells Angels aren’t just banned from sharing information to police officers, but they also aren’t allowed to talk to major media. It’s simply another extension of their rule against talking about members, but it helps to keep information from leaking outside of the group.
Can’t Go To The Website Without Permission
Throughout this article, quotes from the website have been brought up a lot. Well, about that, you can’t actually link the club’s website without express, written consent. Given what ew know about the club’s secrets, this doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary. The consent may be given at any time, but it can also be taken away just as easily.
To become a Hells Angel, you can’t just ride any type of bike, it needs to be a Harley-Davidson. Harleys have been long associated with the club and is as deeply intertwined with the organization as their vests. Their bikes are just a part of who they are.
No Girls Allowed
Members of the Hells Angels refer to themselves as a brotherhood. And there’s a good reason for that. You’ll only see men as official members. Many members are married and have families, but their partners need to understand how important their commitment to the club is and be okay with their particular lifestyle.
Everyone knows about the Hells Angels signature vest. Prospects get their own vests when they become full-fledged members. Sher explained that the vests are considered sacred to members of the club. If they go to jail, they hand it off to someone else beforehand to prevent it from being damaged on the inside. And if they get injured or in an accident, they’ll do everything in their power to make sure the vest doesn’t get damaged.
Thousands Of Miles A Year
According to their website, Hells Angels ride around 12,000 miles a year on their motorcycles. As a motorcycle club, it only makes sense. Riding on their bikes is how the members display their freedom and liberation.
Like A Family
As said before, members of the Hells Angels feel like family members to one another. Their love of motorcycle riding is what brought them together, but they still get to do it with people that they love. To the members of the club, it’s more of a way of life or a belief system than simply just a bike ride.
Despite their reputation as tough guys, the Hells Angels actually have a strict policy about using illicit substances. Using any narcotics for recreational purposes is strictly forbidden by the club. using them could lead to you getting kicked out of the club.
Starting A Charter
Joining a charter is hard enough, but creating one isn’t a simple process either. The Hells Angels website explains that, “Motorcycle Clubs consist of people who have ridden together for years, live in the same area, are known by the community, have runs and parties, and are a brotherhood”. It can sometimes take even decades to get a new charter running. But the website also says that, once you’re ready to start your own charter, you won’t have to ask how.
The club actually despises when non-official members wear their merchandise. However, they do still allow fans to purchase it to support the group. The Hells Angels have a support shop where non-members can buy merch and support their local charters. The stuff they sell, the more events they can hold.
Wearing Official Merchandise
While non-members of the Hells Angels can buy supportive merchandise, only club members can wear official merchandise. If you’re caught attempting to impersonate a Hells Angel, retaliation will be inevitable. If you want to support the club without joining, just make sure to go through the proper channels.
Breaking The Rules
Breaking the rules of the club is both unwise and dangerous. Hells Angels’ members are secretive and have many loyal members. Breaking the rules could lead to a pretty harmful form of retaliation. Sher actually claimed that former members who had broken the rules had their tattoos burned off.
Don’t Question The Apostrophe
You may have noticed that there’s technically an apostrophe missing from “Hells Angels”. Well, you’re just not supposed to talk about it. They’re actually aware of the grammatical error. About it, their website says, “Yes, we know there is an apostrophe missing but it is you who miss it. We don’t.”