At first, the skinheads seemed like just another rebellious youth subculture. But since the 1980s, each decade has brought eruptions of racist skinhead violence splashed across the evening news. Criminal attacks by shaved-head, boot-wearing white youths ranging from vandalism to murder have served to remind minority populations that maybe we haven't made that much progress in social relations. The skinhead "fad" shows no sign of fading. In November 1988, three skinheads in Portland, Ore., 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, Calif., by three skinheads who crushed his skull with chunks of concrete. In October 2007, a skinhead strangled a 62-year-old gay man in Oklahoma City as a rite of passage in his gang.
These stories are now such a consistent part of the American criminal landscape that most large police departments have bias-crime detectives, and many focus on skinheads as part of their gang enforcement strategies. Racist skinheads have also become a regular element in prisons and juvenile corrections facilities. The threat of a skinhead rally can lead whole communities to mobilize in opposition. The U.S. military has had to contend with racist skinheads in its ranks. Hate rock from racist skinhead bands has bled into the flow of rebellious teen music. And skinheads have taken their "boot parties" from the street to the Internet, targeting young people for recruitment into their supposed movement.
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.
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.