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Racist Skinhead

Racist skinheads form a particularly violent element of the white supremacist movement and have often been referred to as the “shock troops” of the hoped-for revolution. The classic skinhead look is a shaved head, black Doc Martens boots, jeans with suspenders and an array of typically racist tattoos.

Top Takeaways

The racist skinhead movement has almost no young recruits. 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.

Key Moments

The Hammerskins, among the nation’s most established and most violent hate groups, did not host its annual event, Hammerfest, for the first time in years. The event is the last remaining, large racist skinhead gathering in the U.S., and the group’s failure to hold it is an indication of the movement’s decline. A small concert was held in its place. 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 were still reviewing the case and investigating it as a hate crime.

What’s Ahead

As racist skinheads age and fail to replenish their numbers, the movement will continue to lose relevance. Some older members have left the movement for far-right groups, like the antigovernment “Patriot” group American Guard, that are closer to the mainstream. 

Background

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.

2019 racist skinhead hate groups

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

AC Skins
Atlantic City, NJ*
California
Nebraska
American Defense Skinheads
Pennsylvania*
Illinois
American Front
California
Montana
Oregon
Be Active Front USA
Maryland
Philadelphia, PA
Blood and Honour Social Club
North Carolina*
Indiana
Michigan
Missouri
New York
Ohio
Pennsylvania
Virginia
Blood and Honour USA
North Carolina
Virginia
Confederate Hammerskins
North Carolina
Crew 38
California
North Carolina
Oregon
Virginia
Washington
Firm 22
Arizona
Florida
Indiana
Missouri
New Jersey
Virginia
Golden State Skinheads
Northern California*
Southern California
Keystone State Skinheads
Pennsylvania
Midland Hammerskins
Texas
Northwest Hammerskins
Oregon
Washington
United Skinhead Nation
Florida
Minnesota
Tennessee
Vinlanders Social Club
Florida
Indiana
Minnesota
New York
Texas
Washington
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.