TWO YEARS IN THE SHU AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT.
If there's any doubt that the gangster mindset has become a bankable commodity, you don't need to look any further than the record business and the clothing industry. I won't mention the name, but there's a clothing line based in the greater LA area that markets what they call "authentic jailhouse street wear." The T-shirts, jackets and hats sport the label's logo in addition to things like "186.22" (the California Penal Code section that covers gang membership), "LA County Jail 1750" (the High Power Module) and "P-Bay SHU" (Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit).
While I fully understand the concept of wearing something ironically and the idea of reverse cool (hip young mothers, for instance, dressing like Doris Day and Lucille Ball) there doesn't seem to be any ironic content in this clothing line. It appears to be a flat out glorification of jail life and gangsterism. I don't know who's buying this stuff, but I can almost guarantee that nobody who's been in the SHU or the high power module would wear a T-shirt to fondly commemorate the event.
I would bet that this clothing is aimed at the wannabe fringe, young people who probably haven't got a clue what prison life is really like. And frankly, it's a bad message.
Unfortunately, this bad message isn't restricted to wannabe gangsters. Some gang cop groups are also marketing clothing that looks an awful lot like classic gang wear. These guys should know better. When the good guys and the bad guys start looking the same, it's time to re-examine your premise and figure out who you really are.