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Gangsters in the 50s and Modern Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 6th, 2021


Gangs have undergone a vicious renaissance that is now threatening the social fabric of our contemporary society. The United States has been known a haven for gangsters; streets of Los Angels have notoriously witnessed a resurgence of Latino gangs in the wake of the 20th century. According to California Department of Justice, the year 2002 registered over 300,000 gang members in California alone (Gunn, J, Maden, A. & Swinton, M, 2005). This in itself potent a major security threat that calls for a multi-faceted and comprehensive response in almost all sectors of the entire community at large. The California Penal Code 186.22 delineates street gangs as a bunch of three or more persons is having a universal name or widespread identifying symbol, and whose members individually or collectively engage in or have engaged in criminal life style (Siegel, Welsh, Senna, 1994).

Evolution of the Gangs

After the end of the Second World War, the dawn of the 50s Mexican street gangs wedged an aggression against the U.S soldiers. Through a highly character development of the Maravilla gang based in the East of Los Angels, the Mexican street gangs created an ethnic pride.

Chicano is a term that was coined to illustrate the purity of the race during this period, where puro was used to delineate thoroughgoing Mexican (Siegel, Welsh, Senna, 1994). The gangs of the 60s were the precursor for the drug culture that saw the involvement of the Mexican streets gangs who traded manufactured and used drugs. The mid 60s so the emergence of the non-traditional Mexican street gang who labelled themselves as the 18th street gang. Research indicates that this gang might have been one of the kinds in breaking the barricades that enhances mixed race gangs (Britain Institute of Criminology, 2003).

Gang activities escalated on a time high as from 1990 onwards with gun taking centre stage. Lethal drugs like Methamphetamine have been consumed by this gangs that have professionalized street violence and criminal reputations. By 1996 their was a widespread documentation of a mushrooming gang sub culture in rural America. These gangs mostly come from the African-American and Hispanic affiliate.


Historical facts concur with the notion that most criminal gangs have taken shape in the mid of the 20th century. These gangs have relentlessly evolved based on the deprived economic conditions, prejudice and racism. In this paper we therefore compare a timeline of exhaustive historical findings that relates to the evolution of gangs in the 50s in comparison to modern gangsters (Britain Institute of Criminology, 2003). In retrospect to the department of justice (DOJ), California has recorded an alarming number of gangs with approximately 300,000 members. For this findings it is noted that 60 percent of this gangs are Hispanic, 30 percent African-American, 6 percent Asian and 4 percent are pure whites. Based on these findings it was deduced that most gangsters were from 14-24 years of age. However, under rare circumstances gangs as younger as 8 and as old 30 have been inaugurated. Conventional aggregates have indicated that the United States is a house hold for more than 25,000 gangs of all composed of youths and over 800,000 members (Britain Institute of Criminology, 2003).

Modern Gangs

Contemporary gangsters emerge from a wider scope of the socio-economic or ethnic backgrounds. With the technological advances in our modern society, gangs have also undergone a highly mutilated metamorphosis. They have also adopted modern weapons of murder unlike the gangsters of the 50s. Penitentiary gang-life has also influenced modern street gang pursuits. Modern day gangsters have dangerously inaugurated both the minor and women alike while perfecting the art of sadistic crimes (Siegel, Welsh, Senna, 1994). Female gangsters now comprise of four to ten percent of gang membership population and are the wicked criminal who could easily pull trigger in disposition. Research findings indicate that by the turn over into the new millennium, female gangs have been reported as integral associates that have been highly involved in drug operations as mules that connive and consign weapons and drugs for male accomplices

Modes of Communication

Modern gangsters integrate and communicate through the use of hand signs. This includes a swift movement of hands. These gangs are able to magic charm letters and numbers using their hands as a way to challenge rival gangs. Street gangs on the other hand relate with prison gangs through emails, personal visits and phone calls. Essentially the gangsters of our contemporary times have utilised the magnanimity of the internet infrastructure as their mode of communication;


Modern day gangsters have adopted tattoos as a form of expression and intimidation. These tattoos have been used to bring an exposition into the affiliate’s life story, and at what stage of life a gangster was in before the tattoo was implanted upon them. Street gang affiliates essentially share tattoos of the color ink, while behind the bar the ink is made from pencil and lead carbon paper, burnt ash and ink pens.

Dress Code

Towards the dawn of 21st century, gang affiliates have dramatically changed their dress code. Currently these gangsters don’t limit themselves to a scrupulous style of clothing. They put on denim and khaki pants too, button shirts-shirts and sweaters. All types of tennis shoes are worn substitute to the leather shoe of the 60s; bandanas have been carried over into the modern world gang who wears them on the back pants pockets, with a piece sticking out so that others can notice the color and the affiliate of particular gang (Brown, B.S. & Courtless, T.F, 2004).What have also not transformed is the heavily ironed clothes, creased pants, oversized shirts, spotless shoes, clean haircuts and the pride they take in their look. Sport jerseys have been so popular among the members as well (Siegel, Welsh, Senna, 1994).Female indulgence in crime dates back as in the 1800s, women were initially viewed as inferior to males, and this has seen their major part in gang crimes roll out unnoticed. Conventionally female were not defined as affiliates of the gang but as maybe someone’s girl friend, sister or relative. Females associated with gang have often been often been holding weapons and drugs for their male gangsters accomplices.

Many of this collectivism is still being employed to females, besides there have been some variations,. Female gang members emulate the behaviours of male gang members as a form of integrating into the gang. Females do dress-up in gang associated clothing, participate in criminal activities and coordinate some of the crimes. Siegel, Welsh, Senna (1994).In recent times, females have tried to form their own gangs, taking characteristics from male dominant gangs and employing to their own. Females apply characteristics such as jump-ins, graffiti, tattoos, weapons and violence, as a way for them to achieve a good reputation and recognition from male gang members. Virtually, women have been recruited into gangs after having sexual intercourse with several hardcore gangsters’ affiliates.

However, most females that are sexed in these gangs are not accorded so much respect as those women that are jumped in. the law enforcers have however, overlooked the crime commitment by women though they get involved in the same criminal activities by men gangs. What should however, not be underestimated is the fact that just like male gangs women also do seek gang affiliations for security, love, money and fame just like its common with male gangs and as a result they are highly lethal just as men are (Brown, B.S. & Courtless, T.F, 2004).


Graffiti are known as the street newspapers that convey information to challenge rival gangs. Graffiti illustrate whether or not a gang member are going through hell and conversely the gangs exploits. These kangaroo proponents of misinformation spread malice and disrespect other gangs as well as the community where it is written. They use alphanumerical in translating particular letters and vice versa. Modern graffiti incorporate the use of monikers or nicknames that are founded on characteristics of a personality or a shortened version of the nouns. Same gang affiliates take on names animated characters such as Sleepy or Popeye. Area codes have been denoted as 510-Oakland, 313-L.A. C/S Con Safos among countless graffiti.

African-American Gangs

African-American gangs; stretches back into the 20s, however, most of this African-American gangs sprung up after the mid 60s; this include the Gladiators, Slausons, Farmers and the Businessmen. The crips began to emerge in the late 60s and maintained as one of the most dominant African American gangs in history. Conventionally, crisps dressed in blue and Bloods show off the color red. The attire have however taken a dramatic turn around over the past years, this is attributed to the heavy influence from the Hispanic/Latino gang trends. Their vinaigrette codes have changed from the denim overalls worn in the 80s to the sports wear of the 90 to amalgamate that consist of name brand clothing (Brown, B.S. & Courtless, T.F, 2004).

The most explicit brand name clothing worn by the gangsters include, the (‘Fubu’ and Fat Albert). Some gangsters and the entire cohort dress up in the Calvin Klein because of the acronym ceCK that stands for Crip Killer. Attires like British knights have also been preferred by most gangs based on letters like BK which denotes Blood Killer in the gang culture (Brown, B.S. & Courtless, T.F, 2004). These gangs have also developed terminologies that suit the interests and identity of a particular gang. Some of the common words used by gangs include Babylon which standards for police; mashed out- leaving out; Bow Down- show respect to my hood; Buster- fake gang member; Cap – to shoot; D.O.G- double original gangster, among countless acronyms.

Irish Italian and Jewish Gangs

Irish, Italian and Jewish gangs emerged in the 1800s in the five territorial backgrounds of New York. The formation of these early gangs was propelled by unemployment, diminutive riches, and even fewer prospects led many men to twirl into a life of crime. Brown, B.S. & Courtless, T.F. (2004). Bunch of hooligans hurriedly blow up and marshalled up total control over the territory. Today, these groups have been closely monitored by the law implementers and anti-hate associations. The law enforcement uses three categories to define hate groups; skinheads, Aryan Resistance Movement (ARM) and the (Ku Klux Klan) a white supremacy movement. Skinheads must have originated in 1967 in England’s working class neighbourhoods. The movement developed into three groups namely the Sharps, Nazi skinheads and the Traditional skinheads. They all harboured the commonest denominator which essentially, was love for war and extreme violence (Gunn, J, Maden, A. & Swinton, M, 2005).

The white Supremacy movement promotes the axioms of the whites, especially Northern Europeans and their descendants are intellectually and morally superior to other races. The usual terminal for White supremacists has been African-Americans and Jews. These gangs have also focussed on the other minority groups including mainly Hispanics, Asian and guys (Hollins, S., Clare, I.C.H., Murphy, G. & Webb, B, 2004).

The White Aryan Resistance was established in the 80s by the former California Klan leader Tom Metzger and his son John. Most of the skin heads take after this extreme legion of goon. Metzger popularised this bunch of goons through the media. While the Ku Klux Klan was established in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee by a minority confederates veterans (Hollins, S., Clare, I.C.H., Murphy, G. & Webb, B, 2004).

Midwest street gangs also come up during the 50s and the 60s; this is the era when the person gangs emerged. The prevalent gang to rise during this interlude was notoriously known as the Blackstone Rangers. The 80 is also a significant time in history since it records most evolution of myriad prison gang affiliates. These gangs began to compete amongst themselves; the Blackstone Rangers were one of the two prevalent prison gangs to garner attention during this time in history (Hollins, S., Clare, I.C.H., Murphy, G. & Webb, B, 2004).

Outfit of the Ancient gangs

In the early 1960 and 1970 the gang techniques adopted varied changes. The emblematic outfit for a bunch of criminals consisted of khaki pants, more often than not two sizes bigger, a Pendleton shirt and a cotton undershirt. The rationales why gangs adopted this dress code were a twofold. The first is, the style came from the prison system (Britain Institute of Criminology, 2003). Secondly, it was seen rather economical, since the khaki garments could be washed and ironed time and time again and would still look perfect to wear. The garments were also long lasting and the bigger pants gave gangster an allowance for development and growth without having to part with a few coins for more clothing. Britain Institute of Criminology (2003).The gangs have been wearing the khakis until in the 80s where some variations were made on their style; sports shoes and bandanas were incorporated during this time. However, bandanas were not worn around the head but were folded and flattened, then slipped into a pocket perhaps to put on show one gang membership. Such like attires were strictly used for provocative reasons and confrontations. This period also witnessed the introduction of sun glasses that were meant to be a symbol of hard look and not to let others know which direction which the other squad associate was looking (Gunn, J, Maden, A. & Swinton, M, 2005).


The leadership structure of gangsters corresponds to the original initiators and the core members who started the gang. Membership commitment can be considered in levels or ranks within the gang. Hard-core members are considered to accord their loyalty to the gangs. They champion unity and loyalty to the gang depending on the outside activities (Britain Institute of Criminology, 2003).


Britain Institute of Criminology (2003).BICrime reduction matters ‘Developmental and early intervention approaches to crime prevention’.

Brown, B.S. & Courtless, T.F. (2004) the Mentally Retarded Offender. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, Dept of Health Education and Welfare Publication.

Evans, J.L. and Stansberry, P.A. (2004) Parenting in the Early Years: The Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development.

Fisher, R (2001) the future is in our hands: Prevention and early intervention for children and families.

Gunn, J, Maden, A. & Swinton, M. (2005) British Medical Journal. Treatment needs of prisoners with psychiatric disorders.

Hollins, S., Clare, I.C.H., Murphy, G. & Webb, B. (2004). You’re Under Arrest. London: Gaskell Press.

Siegel, Welsh, Senna (1994) Juvenile Delinquency, Theory, Practice, and Law. 9th edition

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