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The Hells Angels 1965 / Under the Influence

From the rottenest motorcycle gang in Christendom to godfathers of outlaw style

Article By Michael Nolledo, August 22, 2013

Hells Angels photographs by Billy Ray. See more and get the full story on Ray's time with the Angels at Life.com

In 1966, Hunter S. Thompson wrote in Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga:

“The hard core, the outlaw elite, were the Hell’s Angels… wearing the winged death’s-head on the back of their sleeveless jackets and packing their ‘mamas’ behind them on big ‘chopped hogs.’ They rode with a fine unwashed arrogance, secure in their reputation as the rottenest motorcycle gang in the whole history of Christendom.”

The book did as much in launching Thompson’s career as it did setting off decades-worth of mythology around the legendary motorcycle club. One look at one of these depraved freedom-seekers in the 1960s, or even today, you’d be excused to head in the other direction. The Hells Angels (they don't use the apostrophe) influence on biker culture is undeniable. The gang's look redefined lawless style.

Recently, never-before-released pictures from LIFE magazine photographer Billy Ray surfaced, providing insight into the Hells Angels San Bernardino chapter of 1965. The photographs show the gang with their “old ladies” and “hangers-on,” living between their Harley-Davidsons and clubhouses, most likely up to no good. These artifacts show the motorcycle gang's garb and look, not to mention attitude—expressed in leather jackets and engineer's boots—in original form. Today, that look maintains a pervasive influence in popular culture, even with those who don't know a hog from a Honda.

So when it comes to classic outlaw style, the Hells Angels come second to none. Just don’t try to rock the death’s-head insignia; that’ll just bring you a whole lot of bad.

Wesco Boss Engineer Boot

Horween Black Horsehide Leather Cuff


Perfecto Motorcycle Vest

Reigning Champ Henley

LVC Black Cord Jacket


3sixteen Double Black Selvedge Jean

Levi's Black Paisley Bandana

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