A bit of mystery surrounds any exclusive club or secret society. Biker gangs often operate in a distinctive, self-contained world, complete with specific functions, responsibilities, titles, and jargon. But the important roles in a motorcycle gang aren't in place only to confuse outsiders - there is a hierarchy ensuring all members are aware of what others expect of them. It's a matter of keeping everyone on the same page for the sake of running a well-oiled machine.
Motorcycle clubs are nothing new. They date back as far as 1935, when the Outlaws Motorcycle Club lived by the motto of "God forgives, Outlaws don't." Though they were a belligerent group, this didn't stop their ranks from growing. With more than 1,700 members, the Outlaws MC are still an active group. They were known for their bitter rivalry with the infamous Hells Angels, a legendary motorcycle club that remains in operation today.
Motorcycle clubs have a structure "like [that of] the military and have a strict set of rules," according to government informant Charles Falco, who had infiltrated several biker groups during his career. In the years following the World War II, some of the men who had returned from battle longed for the solidarity they found in military service. They could offer motorcycle clubs their military skills, such as fighting and using weaponry, and the gang, in turn, could extend a sense of community and belonging. Out of this symbiotic relationship came the military-like structure.
Over time, the hierarchy has evolved to include more roles and defined responsibilities, but most clubs still assign fundamental positions. Many individuals drawn to these groups join for similar reasons as those of their forebears: They are war veterans, though they may have served in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of Europe.
Despite their aggressive image and the rigid roles contained within their ranks, the majority of motorcycle clubs do not operate like fascist dictatorships - they are akin to a democracy. They vote in officers and new members.
Only the club's president abstains from voting unless they must break a tie among the voting members.
The founder of the club is the individual who started the entire group or a particular chapter within the club. Typically, if a founder is an active member of the club, they will take on the additional role of president. If there are two active co-founders, they will usually agree to take on the positions of president and vice president.
When a founder or co-founder dies, a vote among the guiding committee determines who ascends to this coveted position.
The position of the president often only exists in chapters where there is no active founder, as active founders or co-founders tend to take on the role and duties of president. In clubs where there is a separate, designated president, this role serves as the leader of the organization. It is a highly visible role that involves chairing a chapter's meetings and managing public relations.
The president represents the group in dealings with the outside world - such as with police and the press - and within the organization, acting as an envoy at national and international meetings.