California is home to people from all walks of life, from dairy farmers to Hollywood actors, and fashion designers to Silicon Valley programmers. Due to the diversity of its people, you can find virtually every dress style within its borders.
However, you might not realize that certain clothing should be avoided in California, and not just because of the weather.
Despite having many affluent areas and welcoming neighborhoods, California has a history of gang culture. Rival gangs engage in violent turf wars that often spill over onto city streets. One of the few ways to identify yourself as a gang member is how you dress, and in particular, the color of your clothing.
Can You Wear Red in California?
Most Los Angeles residents recommend against wearing red in and around the city and its suburbs. The color is widely associated with the Bloods gang, which is responsible for violence, drug dealing, and other major crimes along the west coast.
Although some red clothing shouldn’t make you a target, it’s not a good idea in L.A. This is especially true for tourists who may inadvertently walk into the “wrong neighborhood”. That said, the prevalence of gang colors isn’t as strong as it once was. It’s not as common to hear of mistaken identity attacks due to clothing color.
However, if you want to be on the safe side, it’s best to avoid wearing all red or blue. It’s also a good idea to refrain from wearing eye-catching accessories in these colors, like bandanas, hats, or shoes.
As a rule of thumb, research the area ahead of your trip and identify the notoriously unsafe zones.
California Gang Culture
The main reason why people might advise you against wearing red in California is the rivalry between the state’s two most notorious gangs: the Bloods and the Crips. Gang members show their allegiance in several ways, most notably in the color of their clothing. The Bloods wear red while the Crips typically don blue garb.
It’s believed that gangs have existed in California since the early 1920s. Initially, these groups formed in local neighborhoods as a means of socializing. Unfortunately, many gangs started in underprivileged suburbs which inevitably led to members committing petty crimes like robbery and vandalism.
Over the years, more gangs were forged and crimes escalated significantly, often involving violence and weapons. Once narcotics made their way into the California social scene, gangs became majorly involved. This contributed to rivalries and feuds over where gangs operated, causing violence and murder to become quite common.
Today, gang violence is one of the most serious issues in all states, including California. Some of the main crimes associated with Californian gangs include drive-by shootings, home invasions, armed robberies, and murder. Although gangs don’t necessarily target civilians, they are occasionally victims.
It’s estimated that there are approximately 200,000 gang members in the state of California. However, it’s impossible to get precise statistics as there is no official or comprehensive database for such figures.
Today, there are over 70 recognized criminally active gangs throughout the state.
The Bloods are one of the most infamous gangs in California and the primary reason people are advised to stay away from red clothing. Red has a historical association with the Bloods and red clothes have always been one of the main identifiers for Blood members, along with certain symbols and hand signs.
The Bloods were founded in Los Angeles in 1972. Members started the gang to compete against the already-established Crips in L.A. Bloods would offer protection against Crips who had committed a series of violent crimes and attacks against innocent civilians around the time.
However, because they were established several years after the Crips, the Bloods were at a numerical disadvantage. During the 1970s, there were three times as many Crips as Bloods. Therefore, in order to assert themselves, the Bloods were extremely aggressive and violent.
Inevitably, they became intertwined in the California drugs scene and distributed crack cocaine around L.A. and the surrounding areas. The influx of money from drug dealing allowed the gang to grow and expand to other cities in the state.
The Bloods are made up of multiple subgroups, called sets, with several rivalries. There are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Bloods in operation in around 123 cities across 33 states.
Members often wear noticeably bright red clothes, like sports gear.
The Crips are one of the most well-known criminal gangs in California. They were founded before the Bloods in L.A. in 1969. In contrast to the Bloods, the Crips traditionally wear blue. This has been common practice since 1973 as a means of differentiation from other emerging gangs.
The Crips are one of the largest gangs in the U.S. with an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 members. They are known to be extremely violent and are heavily involved in drug dealing and other aggressive crimes, like robberies, racketeering, and homicides. Although their origins are in L.A., the organization now has a nationwide presence.
Like the Bloods, the Crips are divided into smaller sets. Occasionally, these factions have rivalries and fight one another. However, they still share symbols and the blue color scheme.
For this reason, people are usually advised not to wear all-blue clothing in California, especially in unknown areas.
Gang Colors Are No Longer Prevalent
Traditionally, gang members would wear outfits dominated by one color to advertise their affiliation. Others would brandish t-shirts, bandannas, shoes, jackets, and jewelry to identify as a member. However, putting your gang association blatantly in the open is no longer a very common practice.
Due to the extent of the violence in California, authorities made distinct efforts to combat gang activities. Wearing red or blue was a clear indication to a police officer of gang affiliation so flaunting them in public became dangerous. Nowadays, gang members don’t wear their colors in public as much as they used to.
While there is likely to be an association between the Bloods, Crips, and their colors for years to come, the significance has worn off considerably. This makes it much safer to brandish red and blue clothing on the streets of L.A. and other areas of California. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry when choosing an outfit.
Red and Blue in California FAQ
Why do some Crips wear red?
In the past, wearing colors affiliated with rival gangs was forbidden among Crips. However, since the colors are less symbolic than they used to be, it’s now common to see these gang members in different colors. Although, wearing rival colors blatantly is not common.
Is it okay to wear all blue?
Due to the affiliation between the color blue and the Crips, it’s not recommended to wear all blue in California, especially in unknown neighborhoods. You may be mistaken for a gang member and end up in an unwanted situation.
Is it safe to wear red in San Francisco?
Overtly wearing red or blue is not recommended across California as these colors are associated with gangs. However, mixing red or blue with other colors is unlikely to stand out as a symbolic gesture. Moreover, gang colors are no longer prevalent in San Francisco.