Posts Tagged ‘gang tattoos’

Gang tattoos V

Written by Rocky Geneva on . Posted in blog


  Skinheads are members of a subculture that originated among working class youths in the United Kingdom in the 60’s, and then spread to other parts of the world. The term skinhead comes from  their close-cropped or shaven heads.

The first skinheads were influenced by West Indian (specifically Jamaican) rude boys and British mods, in terms of fashion, music and lifestyle. Thus the original skinhead subculture was based on those elements, not politics and race.

In time, however, things have changed and attitude towards race and politics have become factors by which more and more skinhead gangs form themselves.

Though there are two kinds of skinheads, racist and non-racist, most people are unaware that most skinheads you will ever see are actually a part of the non-racist fraction. The image of the Non-Racist Skinheads was pretty much irreparably busted when the National Front in England started to enlist the more rowdy of the skinheads and the ones that were latently racist.

Skinheads are visually identified by their short hair and unique clothing styles. Fashion-wise, skinheads range from a clean-cut 1960s mod-influenced style to less-strict punk- and hardcore-influenced styles.

Tattoos on the other hand have been popular in the skinhead subculture since at least the 1970s revival. In 1980s Britain, dedicated skinheads had tattoos on their faces and foreheads, today this practice is not so popular and is mostly observed only with the incarcerated members of this culture.

The tattoos sported depend on the skinhead. The apolitical and non-racist skinheads tend to have tattoos that involve certain symbols common to the scene, like a laurel wreath that comes from the Fred Perry logo,national flags, anti-racist logos and drawings, Doc Marten-style boots, skinhead girls, brass knuckles, the logo for the Trojan record label, or the popular crucified skinhead. The crucified skinhead is symbolizing the damage done by the media pushing the idea of skins as racist thugs. But also, skins will get whatever appeals to them as individuals. Band logos, their children’s names, sacred hearts, hotrods, pin-ups and so on.

  A significant part of racist skinhead subculture is their dress and appearance. Racist skinheads typically shave their heads, much less common practice with the skinhead girls. Often wearing skinhead-related garb such as suspenders and work boots, symbolizing their working class inheritance.

They also tattoo themselves heavily with white supremacy and Nazi symbols. Some of the more popular skinhead tattoo designs are:

  • SS lightning bolts,
  • The Odin rune,
  • The Odin cross: this symbol has been used mostly by the KKK and Skinheads,
  • The Sun rune also known as Sol: often worn by Skinheads as an elbow web tattoo,
  • Crucified skinhead: symbolize the crucifixion of the working class,
  • The White Power Fist and the “Skin” Fist: symbolizes skinhead aggression,
  • Triskele: used to state white supremacy, association with the swastika and Nazi Germany,
  • 14/88: 14 stands for the “14 words” slogan(“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”) and 88 means “Heil Hitler,” as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.
  • Swastika: a very popular design with the Neo-Nazi.
  • Group or movement, logos and titles.




Gang tattoos III

Written by Rocky Geneva on . Posted in blog

Russian mafia

Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises (2007)

The most popular display of Russian Mafia Tattoos in a mainstream movie production would have to be on the body of Viggo Mortensen’s character in the David Cronenberg award winning film Eastern Promises.  Cronenberg made it a point to place detailed attention on the symbolism and importance of the tattoos that prisoners and mafia members acquired

The Russian Mafia has been around as long as the Soviet Union has been dismembered, some even argue before it’s demise.  Supposedly one of the most powerful criminal organizations in modern history, the Russian Mafia has always been based on a strict code of dignity, respect, and honor.

The history of Russian Mafia Tattoos date back to the  notorious Russian prison camp system, known as the Soviet gulag. It was during this collapse that a new breed of professional criminals were spawned, fueled by a hybrid sense of dignity, tradition and desperation, as their communist empire fell.

Russian criminal tattoos have a complex system of symbols which can give quite detailed information about the wearer. Not only do the symbols carry meaning but the area of the body on which they are placed may be meaningful too.

Wearing false or unearned tattoos is punishable in the criminal underworld. Tattoos can be voluntarily removed (for loss of rank, new affiliation, “life style” change, etc.) by bandaging magnesium powder onto the surface of the skin, which dissolves the skin bearing the marks with painful caustic burns.

To the naked eye, one look at the tattoos of the Russian Mafia and they appear to be nothing more than cathedrals, portraits, crosses, stars and spider webs. It’s hard to be absolutely sure of the exact translation that some of these tattoos contain, as I’m sure things have been manipulated and adjusted throughout history.


Here are some of the criminal tattoo symbols used in the Russian underworld:

  • Cathedral, church of monastery – Usually on the chest, shoulder, or back.  Depending on the number of steeples or towers are shown on the tattoo, it translates to the number of years, or number times an individual has been incarcerated. It’s common to find the phrase “The church is the house of God” written beneath the cathedral – which is usually translated to “Prison is the home of the Thief”.
  • Stars – If there are star tattoos on the shoulders, it typically symbolizes a individuals dignity and honor and that he lives by a certain code and tradition.  Star tattoos on the knee caps are usually given once a member has become promoted to Captain status, and it symbolizes that the owner of the tattoo will never be brought to his knees.
  • Pirate tattoo – This means that the owner has committed armed robbery, or article 167 of the Russian Criminal Code.
  • Cobweb – Usually found on the shoulder.  Thought this tattoo has become popular amongst suburban rebels and movie stars, in the Russian Prison system it stands for drug addiction.
  • Barbed wire – Tattooed across the forehead signifies a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
  • Madonna and baby Jesus – Indicates the person has been a thief since childhood.
  • Skulls – Signifies murder, if the murder was significant enough to merit the tattoo. Military insignia and uniform epaulets are worn on the shoulders. This symbolizes criminal accomplishments. When a Skull symbol is portrayed with it, it usually designates a man as a murderer. Epaulets are decorated with certain crests and symbols in the sections where one can see the Skull there prior to conviction, especially when it was of any significance.
  • Rose (white-dried) – Death is preferable to loss of virtue. Also the initiation tattoo of a new gang member is usually placed on the chest and may incorporate a rose this is also used within the Russian Mafia and other Russian gangs.

Gang tattoos II

Written by Rocky Geneva on . Posted in blog

Aryan Brotherhood

The Aryan Brotherhood is believed to have been formed by a group of Irish bikers in 1964 at San Quentin State Prison, but it may have been derived from or inspired by the Bluebird Gang. They decided to strike against the blacks who were forming their own militant group called the Black Guerrilla Family. Some have knit caps pulled low over their eyes; many sport peculiar, walrus-like mustaches more befitting American Civil War soldiers and Wild West outlaws. Nicknamed “The Rock” or “The Brand”, sometimes “Alice” or “Alice Baker”, carnage spreads in the Aryan Brotherhood’s wake. Dozens of murders, professional hits, drug dealing and prostitution rings (both male and female) – all controlled from inside maximum security, lock-down prisons using intricate codes, wives and girlfriends, and “blood in, blood out” loyalty.

Like most prison gangs, Aryan Brotherhood members mark themselves with distinctive tattoos.  Designs commonly include the words “Aryan Brotherhood”, “AB”, SS, 666, sig runes, shamrocks, and other Nazi symbolism and Celtic iconography. “The Brand” as it is also known does not allow others to wear their symbols. Sporting one without permission leads to death punishment. But not before, alive or dead, they slice it off you with a razor.

Large tattoos or several multiple tattoos may symbolize a gang members’ level of devotion to their gang.

Here are some of the most common designs:

Aryan Brotherhood / AB / The Brand

Tattoo used by member of the Aryan Brotherhood for identification. The Aryan Brotherhood is the Alpha and Omega of prison gangs.



The 8th letter of the alphabet being H. So 88 would be HH, for Heil Hitler.



  Blackend in Nazi SS Bolts

In recent years, this tattoo has come to mean that you have killed a minority. It is a Nazi symbol signifying the Schutzstaffel (SS), whose members ranged from the Gestapo to soldiers of the Waffen SS.


  Warrior Rune

Shows one’s commitment to the overthrow of the United States government through an armed struggle.


  Odin Rune

Shows one’s faith in the pagan religion know as Odinism. Odin is the Norse high God, AKA All Father. While very popular with racists, mostly skinheads, Odinism is not a racist religion. 


  Elbow Web

The traditional symbol used by all racists to indicate time served in jail. This symbol has been in the past mistaken to mean that one has killed a black person.



Aryan Brotherhood groups from different states often accompany the symbols mentioned above with the name of the state.


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