McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

Michelle Franco

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Major and Classification

American Studies & Ethnicity

Faculty Mentor

  • Shana Redmond, Ph.D.

Department

  • College of Letters, Arts, & Sciences

McNair Project

Fashioning Identities: African American Gang Dress Practices and the Performance of Gang Identity

Abstract
What does it mean to be dressed like a "gang member?" This paper examines the relationship between perceived African American gang dress practices and the formation of self and group identity. Fashioning their identities to move between boundaries in their larger social world, gang members strategically perform their identity through dress. Through semi-structured interviews with gang members of predominant gangs in Los Angeles county, this study explores the ways that gang members perform their gang identity to different audiences. For family and friends, gang members use dress as a symbol of belonging; for members of the opposite gang, they use dress as a means for trickery and survival; for police and members of the larger society, gang members use dress defiantly. This research suggests a new model for how gang identity relates to dress, redefining what it means to be dressed as a "gang member."