Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>Viet Ching
Subject: gangster
Culture: Vietnamese-American
Setting: United States

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Kenney/Finckenauer 1995 p265-266
"Unlike Chinese and Japanese organized crime ..., the thousands of Vietnamese who came to the United States in the late 1970s and 1980s did not come from a country with a tradition of organized crime.  To a great extent, their involvement in organized crime in the United States developed out of their experiences as immigrants here.  It was, however, very much shaped by who they were and where they had come from.​
    "A number of the Vietnamese refugees had collaborated with the U.S. military during the war in Vietnam.  Some, including high-ranking officers, had been in the Vietnamese military forces.  Other had been government officials at various levels.  One of the unfortunate characteristics of both the South Vietnamese government and the military at that time was that they were riddled with corruption.  Therefore, although they did not have the experience of organized criminal involvement, many Vietnamese refugees did have extensive experience with bribery, corruption, extortion, and violence.
    "Admittedly, Vietnamese organized crime in the United States is not a problem on the scale with that of other ethnic groups.  It is, however, of particular interest in part because there is a Chinese connection; Vietnamese gangs have frequently been very closely linked to Chinese connection; Vietnamese gangs have frequently been very closely linked to Chinese connection; Vietnamese gangs have frequently been very closely linked to Chinese organized crime.  One of these links is in the form of the use, by the Chinese, of young Vietnamese immigrants as enforcers in their extortion and protection rackets.
    "The Vietnamese are also of interest because they are considered by some to be the 'most vicious and ruthless of the Asian criminal groups.'  The New Jersey State Commission of Investigation observed that the Vietnamese are even more violent than the Chinese gangs, and it is their violence that makes them a matter of special concern." [references omitted]

* Valentine 1995 p116
"For several years, Vietnamese traveling gangs have terrorized other Asians who are trying to assimilate into t​he American mainstream through hard work and family-run businesses. These Vietnamese mobile criminals continue to crisscross the United States, preying on the local Vietnamese communities. In home invasions, the gangs crash through the front door of Asian homes waving guns, robbing, torturing, and raping the occupants in a savage reign of terror. When finished, the gang members roar off, many times in stolen cars, only to reappear in a distant city days later. The hapless victims, who had learned to distrust and fear the police back in their homeland, rarely complain to the local authorities. This perpetuates the problem, as other gangsters within their own communities often shake them down for protection after the rampage."

* Chin 1990 p74-75
"These gangs are formed by Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Chinese from South Vietnam and generally labeled as the 'Viet Ching' (Vietnamese Youth).
    "Vietnamese gangs are now rapidly expanding on both the West and East coasts.  Their criminal specialties are predatory crimes such as robbery and extortion.  Over the past several years, many Vietnamese or Vietnamese-Chinese businessmen have been victimized by them.  Unlike Chinese gangs that are better organized and closely affiliated with adult organizations, the Vietnamese gangs are loosely knit and have no connections to their community organizations.  In other words, they are not tied to their communities and have no gang territory.  The fact that they are not structured and not embedded in the communities allows them to be extremely mobile, thus alluding [SIC] any law enforcement efforts to track them.
    "Another unique characteristic of the Vietnamese gangs is their patterns of criminal activity.  Law enforcement authorities have noticed that Vietnamese criminal elements are engaged in regional or nationwide crime sprees, committing a series of robberies from city to city or even state to state. ...
    "Wherever these so-called 'roving bands' go, they team up with local Vietnamese criminal elements, who provide them with information about potential victims and logistical support. ...
    "Vietnamese gangs are normally heavily armed, and they do not hesitate to use their weapons.  Their mobility, ruthlessness, and complete isolation from both their community and the mainstream society have earned them a reputation of being extremely dangerous.  They have instilled fear upon not only the businessmen, but also criminal elements of Chinese origin.  Consequently, Chinese crime groups are actively recruiting Vietnamese gang members to work as street muscles." [references omitted]

* Kinkead 1992 p72-73 [describing New York Chinatown]
"The Vietnamese gangs, new to Chinatown crime in the last few years, are greatly feared in the area; they are considered more violent and vicious than Chinese gangs, who hire them as muscle.  They are mostly young refugees who have dropped out in frustration at being unable to learn English or have run away from foster homes.  As refugees, they can't be deported. ...  Born to Kill upset the long-time order of Chinatown organized crime because it was not backed by any tong and because its members spoke dialects none of their victims understood, and preyed on merchants who had already paid tongs anything from $50 to $1,000 a month in 'lucky money,' or protection money.
    "'It's chaotic now,' Ms. Kong, who owns a large family-run retail soybean business in the center of Chinatown, told me.  'Different gangs come to store and ask for protection money.  Usually, a store has to pay the tong, and then its gang doesn't bother them.  But now the Vietnamese gang shakes the store down, and other gangs do, too.'"


* Kinkead 1992 p73
"​Members of the most notorious gang, Born To Kill, are often tattooed with the initials BTK above a coiled snake or a coffin and three candles."

* Huff ed. 1990 p159 (James Diego Vigil & Steve Chong Yun, 'Vietnamese youth gangs in southern California' p146-162)
"Conspicuous gang symbols, such as tattoos and hand signs, tend to be avoided because they draw attention.  This pragmatism may even result in the refusal to adopt a gang name, for fear that it would invite police recognition.  When markers are utilized, they are discreet.  For example, one common tattoo is that of a small V, composed of five dots, that is placed on relatively inconspicuous parts of the body such as the webbing between the thumb and first finger."


* Huff ed. 1990 p159-160 (James Diego Vigil & Steve Chong Yun, 'Vietnamese youth gangs in southern California' p146-162)
​"Other markers, although conspicuous, are altered easily.  One of our informants, a Mohawk hairstyles, proudly pointed out that his hair was held vertical by a mix of hair gel and egg white.  Apparently, experimentation found that this formula was the easiest to wash out.  In an emergency, the Mohawk quickly becomes a ponytail.  Likewise, other 'tattoos' often are drawn with pens, and are thus removed easily.  Similarly, other markers such as gang colors and graffiti generally are avoided.  Reflecting the impact of the media, our informants noted that they tended to wear clothes that emulate the fashion styles of new-wave musicians and models in GQ magazine.  These clothes tend to be baggy, stylish, and expensive, but are not an absolute characteristic of youth gangs, as these clothes are popular among many youths in Southern California.  Thus extreme care is taken to protect their criminal life-style, which is their only access to the American dream."