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Racist Skinhead

Racist skinheads once formed the most violent-minded element of the white supremacist movement. Often referred to as the “shock troops” of the hoped-for white revolution, the movement flourished during the 1980s and 1990s, particularly through the lucrative, international hate music scene. The classic skinhead look is a shaved head, black Doc Martens boots, jeans with suspenders and an array of typically racist tattoos.

Top Takeaways

With almost no young recruits, the racist skinhead movement’s prominence within this country’s far right has been diminishing steadily for years. In 2019, the SPLC listed 48 racist skinhead chapters. SPLC recorded another multi-year decline in 2020, registering only 36 chapters. Image-conscious white nationalist groups and militant neo-Nazi groups are attracting the younger generation, while new racist skinhead groups are emerging only from the fragments of existing groups. No group is recruiting in significant numbers. Some of the movement’s former leaders have migrated into reactionary, “America First” groups, such as the Proud Boys, that align themselves behind former President Trump.

Key Moments

The Hammerskin Nation, among the nation’s most established and most violent hate groups, remains in decline but not out of the headlines. This movement, while losing momentum, continues to pose a public safety threat. In December 2018, a group of racist skinheads were arrested in Lynnwood, Washington, for allegedly assaulting a Black DJ at a bar. Local and federal law enforcement have been reviewing the case and investigating it as a hate crime. A federal grand jury indicted four individuals in late 2020. Three were members of Crew 38, the supporters group for the Hammerskins.

The United Skinhead Nation (USN) held an event in Florida that featured speeches from longtime white supremacists such as Billy Roper. USN is led by John Kopko, of Florida, a former Hammerskin with a long history in this country’s white power movement. He was present during the fighting during the deadly riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

Members and supporters of the American Defense Skinheads, Atlantic City Skins and others gathered in Pennsylvania for a small concert. Individuals like Travis Condor are involved with ADS, and Brian Haizlip, of the hate group Blood & Honour Social Club, played the concert with his band Empire Falls. Condor and Haizlip were both present at the deadly Charlottesville riot in August 2017. Condor was also arrested in 2018 in Lynwood, Washington, in connection but has not yet been indicted. Condor is a veteran of the US Army’s 82nd Airborne and served in Iraq. In April 2010, he was arrested for his part in the beating of a homeless man in Cincinnati, Ohio. He later pled guilty.

What’s Ahead

As racist skinheads age and fail to replenish their numbers, the movement will continue to lose relevance in this country. White nationalist groups like Rise Above Movement, which has maintained connections to the Hammerskins in the past, and milieus like that of white power accelerationism have emerged to replace the racist skinhead movement among younger recruits, both in posture and intent. Danger related to the movement is still tragically present, as the reports above underscore.

 

Background

The racist skinhead movement has always existed to promote hate violence and to enact it. In November 1988, three racist skinheads in Portland, Oregon, beat an Ethiopian student named Mulugeta Seraw to death with baseball bats. In April 1999, a Mexican immigrant named Irineo Soto Aguilar was murdered in Lakeside, California, by three racist skinheads who crushed his skull with chunks of concrete. In October 2007, a racist skinhead strangled a 62-year-old gay man in Oklahoma City as a rite of passage in his gang. In 2012, a racist skinhead attacked worshippers at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing seven people who were preparing the day’s communal meal.

These stories are now such a consistent part of the American criminal landscape that some large police departments have bias-crime detectives, with many focused on threats racist skinhead crews pose locally. Racist skinheads have also become a regular element in prisons and juvenile corrections facilities, further exemplifying the central role bigotry plays in shaping our criminal justice system. The U.S. military also has had to contend with racist skinheads in its ranks. Hate music from racist skinhead bands resulted in movement leaders such as William Pierce making millions of dollars. The hate music scene in this country has always maintained a nearly symbiotic relationship with racist skinheads, and the two have dwindled in some ways together.

2020 racist skinhead hate groups

View all groups by state and by ideology.
*Asterisk denotes headquarters​

AC Skins
Atlantic City, NJ*
Arizona
Nebraska

American Defense Skinheads
Illinois
Pennsylvania

American Front
California
Montana

Blood and Honour Social Club
Michigan
Missouri
Pennsylvania
Virginia

Confederate Hammerskins
Virginia

Crew 38
Florida

Die Auserwahlten
Utah

Firm 22
Arizona
Florida
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Utah

Golden State Skinheads
Northern*
Southern

Keystone United
Pennsylvania*

Nationalist Women’s Front
California*

Northwest Hammerskins
Washington

United Skinhead Nation
Florida*
Tennessee

Vinlanders Social Club
Florida
Indiana
Minnesota
New Jersey
North Carolina
Oklahoma
Washington
Wisconsin

W.A.R./P.F.R.
Arkansas*

Western Hammerskins
California

Racist Skinhead Terms

14/88: Common white supremacist code. 14 stands for the "14 words" slogan coined by David Lane, who died in prison while serving a 190-year sentence for his part in the assassination of a Jewish talk show host: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." 88 means "Heil Hitler," as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

28: Shorthand for Blood and Honour, a skinhead group

38: Confederate Hammerskins, the southern faction of Hammerskin Nation

Boot Party: Beating a victim to the ground then stomping and kicking him or her with steel-toed boots.

Braces: suspenders

Crew: Skinhead gang or faction

Colors: Marks identifying affiliation; can be tattoos, patches, etc. 

Curbing or curb job: Breaking a victim's jaw or neck by forcing his or her face against a street curb and kicking the back of the victim's head; popularized by the 1998 movie "American History X"

Dr. Martens (aka Doc Martens): Brand of durable boots popular with skinheads. Racist skinheads often lace the boots differently and wear either white or red laces to distinguish themselves from other wearers of the popular footwear.

Homey Sock: Pool ball in a sock wrapped in tape so it doesn't split open when used as a weapon.

Featherwood: Female skinhead

Five words: "I have nothing to say." Skinheads are exhorted to give this standard response to law enforcement and media inquiries. 

Fred Perry: Brand of sport shirts often favored by skinheads. The brand's logo features laurels.

Fresh cut: A newly indoctrinated skinhead whose head has recently been shaved for the first time.

Hammerskins: A nationwide skinhead syndicate, also known as Hammerskin Nation, with regional factions and chapters that once dominated the racist skinhead movement in the United States.

HSN: Hammerskin Nation

HFFH: Hammerskin Forever, Forever Hammerskin

Hang-around: A young person who associates with a skinhead group, but is not yet a probate.

Probate: A "member in waiting" who is on probation with a group before he or she can become a full-fledged member.

RAHOWA: Short for "racial holy war," a slogan that originated with the neo-Nazi Church of the Creator; also the name of a defunct racist band.

Red laces: Bootlace color indicated the wearer has shed blood for the racist skinhead movement. Racist skinheads will often randomly attack non-whites to "earn" their red laces.

Spider web tattoo: Racist skinhead "badge of honor," often worn on the elbow, indicating wearer has committed murder for the skinhead movement.

SHARP: Short for Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, commonly known as SHARP skins, who often battle racist skins.

Skinbyrd: Female skinhead.

Straight-laced: A complex boot-lacing system favored by racist skins who lace their boots in horizontal, straight lines rather than X or cross patterns.

White laces: Bootlace color identifying a skinhead as being "white power," as opposed to non-racist ("traditional") or anti-racist skin.

ZOG: Shorthand for Zionist Occupation (or Occupied) Government," reflecting the neo-Nazi conspiracy theory that the American government is secretly controlled by a powerful Jewish cabal.