There are varying opinions as to why a motorcycle vest is called a cut. Some think that it is a throwback term to when riders and motorcycle gang members wore cut off denim jackets. Others think that is refers to a shortened version of the word kutte, which means a battle jacket. The truth is most likely a combination of the two, perhaps even a transition or evolution from one to the other.
Argument For An Evolution
The denim cut off served multiple purposes. The first was to cut down on wind hitting the chest, keeping a rider warmer. The sleeves were cut off in order to keep a rider’s arms free to be able to react suddenly while riding. Both are very practical uses that motivate riders to wear cuts today. As clubs began to form, the cut off denim vest was a convenient place to display badges and colors, even rallies attended. As leather became more affordable, and riders realized it offered better protection if they dumped their bike, it began to replace denim.
When some motorcycle clubs transitioned into gangs, the leather symbolized a dedication that could not be broken. Gangs and clubs became more exclusive, so earning colors for your leathers became a symbol of pride and accomplishment. Inevitably, gangs and clubs would clash, and fights would break out. Sometimes, the only way to tell friend from foe in the heat of battle was by the colors they were wearing, so the cut became a true battle jacket.
Today, motorcycles are becoming ubiquitous. So is the wearing of leather cuts. Traditional colors are becoming more rare, with most rider opting to wear patches representing the make or model of the bike they ride, but there is still a strong sub-culture of rider who is affiliated and proud, wearing a cut for real reasons. Still, the underlying reason for wearing a jacket or vest of any kind is to help a rider keep warm. Any other use is secondary.
If there are any riders out there that have a different explanation of why motorcycle vests are called cuts, please let us know. You can hit us up in the comments section, on Facebook, or in a tweet.