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Racist Skinhead

Racist skinheads have long been among of the most violent-minded elements of the white power movement. During the 1980s, 1990s and the mid-2000s, particularly, the movement rose to prominence through the lucrative, international hate music scene. The movement has shrunk steadily since.

Top Takeaways

With almost no young recruits, the racist skinhead movement’s prominence within this country’s white power movement has been diminishing steadily for years.

White nationalist groups with carefully constructed public images and militant neo-Nazi groups are attracting the younger generation, while new racist skinhead groups are exceedingly rare and generally emerge from the fragments of existing groups. No group is recruiting in significant numbers. Some of the movement’s former leaders have migrated into other far-right groups, such as the Proud Boys, that appeared in response to and aligned themselves with the social movement that emerged in support of former President Donald Trump. Organizing online via social media has been a significant weakness of this movement for years, further contributing to its decline.

Key Moments

For the third year, the American Defense Skinheads (ADS) helped organize at least one small concert in Pennsylvania. The hate group promoted two events, one in April and another in October. The shows attracted a few dozen attendees and was co-organized by Keystone State Skins, or Keystone United, another racist skinhead hate group listed by the SPLC. Bands that performed included some associated with ADS and the Atlantic City Skinheads, or AC Skins, which is also listed by the SPLC. Individuals who were formerly members of the Hammerskin Nation also attended.

In 2021, individuals associated with the Atlantic City Skinheads (ACS) traveled to Mexico City, Mexico, in October of that year for a concert. Across 2022, individuals associated with ACS sustained their relationships with individuals and hate groups promoting concerts featuring a range of subcultural musical styles also co-opted by racists including electronic, industrial, black metal, neo-folk, noise and “hatecore.” These events bring together newer bands with older, more established hate groups and labels. The American Defense Skinheads have facilitated these new relationships and, along with other skinhead groups, encouraged that concerts be used as a way to get people more deeply involved in the white power movement.

The Idaho chapter of the Northwest Hammerskins held a small show in July 2022.

What’s Ahead

The movement will struggle to retain relevance in this country’s far right, largely due to their failure to attract younger recruits.

Some racist skinhead groups along with hate music labels and promoters are networking with racist, far-right skinheads in Chile and Mexico, with concerts already scheduled in both counties in early 2023.


Since its emergence in Britain in the early 1980s, the racist skinhead movement has existed to promote hate violence and to enact it. In November 1988, three racist skinheads in Portland, Oregon, beat Ethiopian student Mulugeta Seraw to death with baseball bats. In April 1999, three racist skinheads murdered Mexican immigrant Irineo Soto Aguilar in Lakeside, California, crushing 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 tragedies and similar acts of violence inflict lasting trauma on families and communities.

Some police departments now have bias-crime detectives, with many focused on threats racist skinhead crews have posed 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.

Map enumerating racist skinhead hate groups in each state

2022 racist skinhead hate groups

View all groups by state and by ideology.

* - Asterisk denotes headquarters.

AC Skins
Atlantic City
New Jersey

American Defense Skinheads

American Front

Confederate Hammerskins
North Carolina

Firm 22

Keystone United

Northwest Hammerskins

United Skinhead Nation

Vinland Clothing

Vinlanders Social Club

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.