How Are Gangs Identified?

Most gang members are proud of their affiliation and often freely admit their membership. They do this verbally, by “shooting signs” or making gestures with their hands that identify their gang or by wearing distinct clothing, jewelry, or shoes. Many openly display gang tattoos or cover their personal belongings with their gang’s name. Gang members often adopt nicknames that become their new identity or “moniker.” Gangs are also identified by their graffiti, hairstyles, and certain undergarments.

As gangs have received more pressure from law enforcement, school officials, and parents, many have changed their outward appearance to become less noticeable. They will still wear a particular type of clothing or color identifying their gang; they are just a little more discrete. For example, to still “represent” their gang and its colors, gang members might adopt the sports gear of a professional team that has the same color scheme. They will wear professional sports team jackets, caps and shirts to proudly display their gang’s colors, even if they don’t follow that team’s wins and losses.