Raising the lid on the darker side of fan fashion
This article appears in the March 21, 2011 "Style Issue" of ESPN The Magazine
IN THE LATE 1980s, the legendary hip-hop group NWA introduced America to two things: LA gang culture and the menacing power of a baseball cap (Los Angeles Raiders, black). More than 20 years later, gang members continue to sport pro and college team hats to rep their crew. "It's a way to let others know whose turf they're on," says Commander Leo Schmitz of the Chicago Police Department's gang enforcement unit. Here's a sampling of some of the most prevalent lids on the street today, and who's making a statement by wearing them.
Last year, Complex magazine dubbed this cap the second-most popular among gangs ever. Credit the 30,000-strong roster of the LA-based Bloods. But the deep crew is fond of all scarlet gear, including that of the Chicago Bulls and the Kansas City Chiefs.
From the Southwest to the South Side of Chicago, the Maniac Latin Disciples hoard Minny gear. Now that the Twins also sport a "TC" logo, MLD has donned Miami and Michigan hats, too.
PNC Park draws the fourth-fewest fans in the majors, but there are plenty of Bucs believers in the streets. In LA alone, the Piru Bloods, an offshoot of the original Bloods, run 31 different chapters, most of which rock the iconic "P."
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
The membership of Chicago's Simon City Royals has been declining steadily since the gang's formation in the 1960s, and its criminal activities pale next to Chi-Town's more notorious crews. But the bangers made a bold statement after the Royals introduced black into their color scheme back in 2002: Simon City's brethren quickly followed suit.
This Big East team offers a double shot for the 40,000 Chicagoland Gangster Disciples: The prominent "G" clearly tags the wearer as a member, while the team name provides an acronymic shoutout (Hoover's on Your Ass) to longtime leader Larry Hoover.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Breaking from the Dodgers gear rocked by their Crips forebears, LA's Rollin 60s are drawn to this big "S."
NEW YORK YANKEES
In 2007, activists in Harlem protested this cap's association with NYC's Latin Kings, who'd adopted a version in the gang's signature black and gold; the manufacturer quickly pulled it from stores. Three years later, The New York Times reported that suspects in more than 100 serious crimes wore the traditional Bombers' lid, also popular among the Gangster Disciples.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
The Justice Department says there are chapters of Crips in 221 cities in 41 states. Most of them, plus other crews such as the Latin Aspects and the clearly hat-obsessive Gangster Disciples, wear Dodger blue, making this the gang world's most popular headgear.