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Perpetuating Gang Mentality Through Sports Logo Apparel 

    Gangs have always used baseball hats to help advertise and promote their particular gang affiliation.  I'm assuming that anyone this far into my site will already know something about gangs.  Among Black gangs, the Crips tend to claim the color BLUE.  Their rivals, Bloods, claim the color RED.  Latino gangs usually separate by geographic territory. Most Sureņos (Southerners) claim the moniker 13 or XIII, while their enemies the Norteņos (Northerners) claim the number 14 or XIV.  Latino gangs also often use red, navy blue and/or black hats in various forms.

    They have been very creative in using existing colors and logos to use in their ornamentation.  The key work here used to be 'existing.'  Until the 1950's or 1960's, clothes (and music) were not created and market especially for adolescents.  For millennia, teens have been taking adult clothing and modifying it.  That has dramatically changed in our lifetimes.  Now most of the clothes many parents, teachers and other adults lament about, including sagging pants, drug related t-shirts, etc., are designed and marketed specifically for teens.

    One of the ways I track cultural shifts in teens is to watch them at shopping malls, another dubious invention teens gravitate to like moths to a light bulb.  Its the obvious place to see them in action, and to watch which clothes they are wearing.  A year or two ago I started doing double-takes on some of their baseball hats.  Some of the team colors didn't seem right somehow.  Then it struck me: the hats were not being altered by the youth but by the adults selling and marketing them.  The colors I kept seeing everything in were red, navy blue and black, with occasional greens which is often associated with Asian gangs.  I wondered what the NFL and NBA, among other entities, were doing about this when I next noticed they were indeed licensed properly and sold in numerous official sports logo outlets.

Just because kids want them doesn't mean we should supply them!!

    At the same time I was watching some of my group home youth I work with wearing hats I couldn't place.  Why was this boy from the San Francisco area wearing a rival team's hat?  Why was a rural youth so interested in the Georgetown Hoyas or the University of Nevada Las Vegas?  Most boys admitted to not really being in gangs, but remarked that the colors they chose made them safer in their home community.  Why did kids in Northern California wear hats from Southern California?  While at an out-of-town conference a while back, I took a colleague to a local mall for some teen reconnaissance.  I showed her a baseball hat display that probably held 50 different hats.  While there was a myriad of logos and teams represented, there were only three colors available: red, navy blue and black.  

    Too many coincidences for me!  I sifted through my memory for team acronyms gangs have been known to use.  The pieces all fell into place.  Indeed, many of the hats that concern me are legal adaptations of the original.  I wondered how teams like the NY Yankees could sell their time honored navy blue hats in red.  I wondered when the Cincinnati Reds became blue, and so on.  In essence, basically all major league and college institutions have allowed major alterations to their color schemes and logos recently, obviously in an attempt to sell more product.  While that in of itself is not necessarily bad, I firmly believe they must know who is buying and using their product.  While there are probably not enough true gang members around to constitute a market, if you add all the wanna-be's and others trying to look "the part," you've got a trend on your hands.

    Anyway, enough said!  Let's look at some pictures

 

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Last Updated Feb. 19, 2012