Despite widespread media coverage and consistent monitoring by civil rights organizations, racist skinhead gangs in the United States remain understudied by social scientists. While American skinheads are a relatively small portion of the overall gang picture, they have maintained a continuous presence in the United States for the last twenty-five years and can be found in every region of the country. Although American skinheads have been neglected in the academic literature, the original British skinheads received considerable scholarly attention. Using a neo-Marxist inspired conception of youth subculture, these studies tended to focus exclusively upon style, which they explained as an attempt to resolve a marginal working-class status in a class·based society. One of the consistent controversies surrounding the study of skinheads has been whether to define them as stylistic subcultures (as British scholars did), gangs, hate groups, or even terrorists. In the United States skinheads have typically been excluded from gang studies on the grounds that they are better understood as “hate groups” and/or "terrorists” sharing little in common with traditional street gangs. In contrast to street gangs, racist skinheads have been portrayed as closely organized around an ideological system of “Aryan supremacy" and as lacking traditional gang territorial claims. Moreover, it is commonly believed that skinheads differ from traditional gangs in that they do not spend significant amounts of time “hanging out" on the streets; instead, they are said to be “inside . . .working on their materials; or if outside, they’re looking for a target, not just lounging around . . . skinheads are focused, always planning. . . . Skins prefer narrower ranges of trouble.”

Yet a careful review of the literature suggests the inadequacy of conceptualizations of racist skinheads as completely distinct from traditional youth street gangs. Stephen Baron‘s (I997) study of Canadian racist skinheads and Erik Anderson‘s (1987) study of San Francisco skinheads, for example, found these youth to be neither highly organized nor politicized. Skinhead youth lived on the streets or in other transient circumstances (e.g., crashpads) and often used violent and other criminal means for survival and the settlement of disputes with other urban and suburban youth cliques. This chapter examines the early development of U.S. racist skinhead gangs, their organizational characteristics including the relationship between skinheads and white supremacist groups, and current trends within the skinhead scene.

History of Skinheads in the UK

A significant component of skinhead culture is their appearance. Traditionally skinhead style included closely cropped hair or shaved head, work pants or denim jeans, Doc Marten steel·toed work boots, suspenders, and tattoos. As one observer pointed out, skinheads dressed like a “caricature of the model worker." Skinhead culture began in Great Britain and developed in two waves through the 1960s and 1970s. The first skinheads emerged in Great Britain in the late 1960s in response to deteriorating traditional working-class communities stemming from a stagnating economy, competition with immigrants for scarce jobs, and withering neighborhood traditions. While they did not explicitly associate themselves with Nazism, they were ardently nationalist in political orientation and fervently opposed to foreign immigration, which was reflected by their affinity for violently attacking Pakistani immigrants aka "Paki-bashing.” The first skinheads "were aware that they attended the worst schools, lived in the poorest districts, and had the worst jobs with the smallest wages. They perceived hippies in the same way as they viewed students, as idle layabouts living off the state.”

While the first skinheads defined themselves along themes of nationalism, ultra-masculinity, and working-class issues (e.g., lack of economic opportunity), they expressed political sentiments primarily through stylistic imagery, hence, they were not typically involved in traditional, organized political activities (e.g., unions, political parties, marches, etc.), This lack of politicization began to change as a second wave of English skinheads emerged in the late 1970s and tentatively became associated with the National Front (NF) and the British National Party (BNP), extreme right-wing political parties, who saw the utility of drawing disaffected white youth into their ranks. The second wave of skinheads spread beyond Britain and emerged in several other European countries as well as North America.

The Development of American Skinheads

Although the skinhead style spread to America through a process of international cultural diffusion, American skinhead gangs formed in response to changes in local punk rock scenes as well as larger changes in the wider social structure. ln the late 1970s, local punk rock scenes starting getting "hardcore,” which signaled a more violent and suburban trend in punk rock. Hardcore referred to a faster style of music and a more hostile attitude, which was expressed through random violence directed at other punks during music shows. For younger suburban kids, hardcore aggressiveness provided an important security device from those antagonistic toward punk style. During this time, the skinhead style evolved from hardcore and, similar to hardcore, became a popular alternative to kids attracted to an ultra-aggressive style. In the early 1980s, local youth cliques across urban and suburban areas in the United States began forming skinhead gangs. The first skinhead gangs bonded around identity markers and shared interests (e.g., shaved heads, clothing styles, musical preferences, slang, tattoos, etc.). Skinheads were building a collective identity with organizational names, initiation rites, semi·hierarchical social roles, and nonspecialized, “garden-variety” delinquency (e.g., vandalism, under-age drinking, petty theft, and maybe most important, fighting). Yet skinhead identity was also loose, unstructured, and tied to social gatherings that were relatively unregulated, allowing for the innovation needed to create oppositional identities. Most skinheads describe their early participation as involving "street socialization" within urban and suburban locales such as malls, parks, music shows, etc. Street socialization is a street·based process providing peer guidance, creating an alternate set of values and norms among youth who lack parental supervision and positive school experiences. Contrary to what some observers contend, skinhead gangs have not been devoid of local neighborhood-based territoriality which can be seen in their choice of gang names (e.g., South Bay Skins, San Francisco Skins, etc.) and claiming specific locations, such as parks or music clubs by using graffiti “tags" and other more physically aggressive means.

In addition to changes in local punk scenes, skinhead gangs were also forming in response to changes involving the larger socio·political environment. Since the mid-1960s, increasing "non-white" immigration had been significantly altering U.S. demographics. Initially the skinhead response to these changes bore great resemblance to the kinds of conflict that ethnic/racial migration spurred in New York and other large urban centers only a few decades earlier. Race was only implicitly important, in much the way that it was to the punks. The majority of (but not all) punks and skinheads were white youth, and although pockets of explicitly racist sentiments existed among punks and the early skinheads, racist political activism was not a primary emphasis before the late 1980s.

The Organizational Characteristics of Skinhead Gangs

Most skinheads become involved between the ages of twelve and nineteen, are predominantly male (60-70 percent), and tend to coalesce around a unique subculture that is autonomous and distinct from adult hate groups such as the Klan. Because skinheads have maintained a presence in the United States since the late 1970s, there are now skinheads in their early forties, however, very little is known about these “O.G.” skinheads or more generally about how aging affects a skinhead’s identity or life course trajectory. Many skinhead gangs are short·lived and have overlapping membership (e.g., sometimes a smaller skinhead clique will be completely compromised of members from other larger skinhead gangs). Most skinhead gangs are either organized at the state-level (e.g., West Virginia Skinheads), county and/or city-level (e.g., Orange County Skins, las Vegas Skins), or even neighborhood and/or school-based (e.g., Milwaukee Eastside Bullies). One of the few exceptions is the Hammerskin Nation (HSN) which is an international skinhead organization that was originally formed in Dallas, Texas, in 1988. Currently the HSN has five regional chapters in the United States (e.g., Northern Hammers, Midland Hammers, etc.) and outside the United States an additional ten countries also have official HSN chapters.

Through much of the 1980s the skinhead scene was an umbrella without clearly demarcated boundaries, allowing fluid forms of participation; yet there emerged within the scene subgroups with clearer boundaries of membership (skinheads often referred to these as “crews"). Over the years as some skinhead gangs became closely aligned with white supremacist groups the distinction between racist and anti-racist skinheads has become relatively clear-cut; however, this was not the case initially, as factions along lines of racial ideology were originally much blurrier Even today some ambiguity continues to persist as skinheads change allegiances between racist and anti·racist. In conclusion, the most important lessons of skinhead gangs involve three points: (1) racist skinhead gangs do not fit neatly in any one particular category—they are diverse and change frequently; (2.) despite rapid turnover and group splintering, the U.S. skinhead scene has been able to persist; and (3) although some skinhead gangs have become a branch of the contemporary white supremacist movement, many other skinhead gangs remain oppositional in localized terms without a clear political program for broad social change. -Encyclopedia of Gangs 2007

Ian Stuart Donaldson

To a considerable degree, the emergence of neo-Nazi Skinheads can be attributed to British singer Ian Stuart Donaldson (often referred to as Ian Stuart), who began as a punk rocker but by the 1980s had transformed himself and his band, Skrewdriver, into explicit promoters of racism and white supremacy. Racist "Oi!" music was a genre of punk music that was popular among early skinheads. By the early 1980s, white power bands in Europe and the U.S. played racist Oi!, racist hardcore punk (often called hatecore), and racist metal music.

During the ensuing decade, hate music (often called "WP music," or "white power music," and "R.A.C.," or "Rock Against Communism") increased its hold among young racists around the world. When Ian Stuart Donaldson died in an auto accident in 1993, he became a white supremacist icon. He did not live to see the transformation of his legacy, however. Within a few years of his death, the emergence of the World Wide Web radically altered the world of hate music, making it dramatically more accessible, more global, more visible, and more lucrative.


* Racist Oi!/RAC: The oldest genre of hate music is derived from Oi!, an offshoot of punk music that originated in the 1970s and became heavily associated with the emerging skinhead subculture. In the wake of Skrewdriver, some racist Oi! bands emerged, sometimes calling their music RAC (Rock Against Communism).

* Hatecore: Hatecore is essentially a racist version of hardcore punk, a musical subgenre that emerged in the U.S. in the early 1980s. Some hardcore punk musicians later merged it with heavy metal music to create thrash or speed metal; there are racist versions of this as well.

Hate Rock music is now a major recruitment tool and source of funding for hate groups. Many hate group members, especially neo-Nazi skinheads, have been drawn to white supremacy by listening to hate rock on the Internet, on CDs, and at concerts, often promoted and coordinated online, where crowds violently slamdance to the music of bands such as Angry Aryans, Blue Eyed Devils, and H8Machine.

Skinheads in a "moshpit"


Criminal Skinheads

Criminally motivated skinhead groups spend most of their time engaged in for-profit criminal activities, such as drug sales and burglaries. Incidental to their criminal activity, they commit hate crimes. Criminally motivated skinheads are typically classified by law enforcement agencies as criminals first, and haters second. The San Fernando Valley Peckerwoods (SVP) in California was a criminally motivated skinhead group. SVP members primarily sold meth-amphetamines and committed residential burglaries. Periodically, SVP members attacked minorities with weapons and, on one occasion, placed packages resembling bombs near an apartment complex where black people lived. Members intended for the fake bombs to frighten current residents to relocate and to discourage other black families from moving into the complex.

Criminal Skinhead Gangs: Public Enemy Number One (PENI), Peckerwoods


American Front
American Thule Society (ATS)
Arizona Hammerskins
Arizona Northern American Skinheads/SS Guardians (ANAS/SSG)
Aryan Fourth Reich Skins
Aryan Renaissance Society/Aryan Fourth Reich Skins
Atlantic City Skinheads/AC Skins
Bergen County Hooligans (BCH)
Blood and Honour
Blood and Honour Kentucky
Blood and Honour/Combat 18
Canyon State Skinheads
Central New York White Pride
Combat 18
Confederate Hammerskins (CHS)
Confederation of Racialist Working Class Skinheads (CRW Skinheads)
C.O.O.R.S. (Comrades of Our Race's Struggle)
- Family Skins/Coors Family Skinheads (CFS)
Deadline Skinheads/Deadline Family Skins
Deaths Head Hooligans (DHH)
East Coast Aryan Brotherhood
East Coast Aryan Brotherhood (ECAB)
East Coast Hate Crew (ECHC)
Eastern Hammerskins (EHS)
Eastern Washington Skinheads
Family Affiliated Irish Mafia (FAIM)
Final Stand Records
Fond du Lac Skins
Free Your Mind Productions
Goetterdaemmerung National Socialist Korps
Golden State Skinheads
Hammerskin Nation
Hated Skins
Hoosier State Skinheads (HSS)
Insane Peckerwood Society
Insane White Boys
Iron Eagle Skinheads
Keystone United (formerly Keystone State Skinheads KSS)
Lake County Skinheads
Lancaster Skins
Las Vegas Skinheads
Maryland Skinheads
Micetrap White Power Music
Midland Hammerskins
Midland Hammerskins/Midland Skins
Milwaukee East Side Bullies
Montana Front Working Class Skinheads
National Socialist Skinhead Front (NSSF)
National Socialist White People`s Party
Nazi Low Riders (NLR)
New Jersey State Prison Skins
New Order Skins
Northern California Aryan Volk (NCAV)
Northern Hammerskins
Northside Wrecking Crew
Northwest Hammerskins (NWHS
Norwalk Skins
Ohio State Skinheads
Old Glory Skins
Orange County Skins
Outlaw Hammerskins (OHS)
Panzerfaust Records
Peckerwood Syndicate
PENI Skins (Public Enemy Number 1 Skins)
Racine County Skins
Retaliator Skinheads
River City Skins
Roswell Aryan Front
Salt City Skins
San Fernando Valley Skins
Scioto Valley Skinheads
Scioto Valley Skinheads/Scioto Skins
Show-Me State Skinheads/St. Louis Crew
Silent Aryan Warriors (SAW)
Skinhead Dogs
Small Town Peckerwoods
So Cal Assassins (SCA Peckerwoods)
Society Skin Nation
Soldiers of Aryan Culture (SAC)
South Florida Aryan Alliance (SFAA)
Southeastern Pennsylvania White Pride
Southern California Skinheads
TCB (Taking Care of Business) Hate Crew
The Pride
Those Opposed
Tualatin Valley Skins
United Skinheads of Atlanta
UOAS (Universal Order of Aryan Skinheads)
Upfront Records/Intimidation One
Vinland Winds Records
West Virginia Skinheads
Western Hammerskins
White Heat Productions
White Plague Skinheads (WPS)
White Plague Skinheads (WPS) Byrd Division
White Plague Skins (WPS)
White Power Liberation Front (WPLF)
White Wolves

Hate Code

A=1 B=2 C=3 D=4 E=5 F=6 G=7 H=8 I=9

8/H= Hate

88/HH= Heil Hitler

18/AH= Adolf Hitler

58/EH= Extreme Hatred

83/HK= Haken Kreuz: German for Swastika

83/HC= Heil Christ: Used by racist Christian groups

5 Words= I have nothing to say

16/AF= American Front

816= Heil American Front

28= Blood and Honour

828/HBH= Heil Blood and Honour

228/BBH= Brotherhood Blood and Honour

211/BAA= Brotherhood of Aryan Alliance

38= Crossed Hammers

386= Crossed Hammers Forever

311 or 3/11= Ku Klux Klan

23= White or Wood (short for Peckerwood)

14 Words= We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.

14 Words for Women= Because the beauty of the White Aryan women must not perish from the Earth.

55/HF-FH= Hammerskins Forever-Forever Hammerskin
H/8 F/6 8+6=14 Now if you break down 14 1+4=5

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