The Russian Mafia: How to look like you belong

Sergei Konkov/TASS
Warning: Imitate the looks, not the criminal lifestyle.

Buy a crimson jacket

In the 90s, owning a crimson jacket was a matter of prestige for every well-established criminal boss for many reasons. For instance, back in the 90s, Russian people knew little to nothing about fashion (although beauty is in the eye of the beholder!) and the jacket’s bright color made it “fashionable” in their unsophisticated eyes. 

Additionally, this kind of jacket was usually imported from abroad, which made them expensive and hard to get for the average person. Consequently, criminal bosses used to wear them on purpose, to highlight their social status as rich men, who would readily blow money on the extravagant outfit.

Wear golden signet rings and thick chains

Criminal bosses of the wild 90s loved jewelry, and the more expensive, the better. The question of aesthetics paled in comparison to the status-boosting that massive rings and chains bestowed upon their owners. Signet rings became especially loved by criminals, due to their size and uncompromisingly garish style (and for the marks they left on their enemies!). 

Get a lot of tattoos

All prisoners in Russian jails create a sort of “criminal CV” by encoding their crimes and tattooing the code onto their bodies. It serves as a nonverbal message about a person’s place in the Russian criminal hierarchy – a trained eye of a policeman or a fellow inmate easily “reads” the message.

So, go for it: tattoo a secret code onto your body. Just make sure you get your facts straight before you settle for a particular draft! This article might help. 

Procure the wheels

In the wild 90s, nobody would have taken you for a serious gangster if you didn’t have a car. Often, even a Lada would do! Yet, there were models especially favored by gangsters. The VAZ-2009, simply known as “devyatka”, was very much appreciated for its relatively powerful engine and its “spacious” interior: it could fit up to five men. 

In addition to the homegrown “devyatka”, the BMW 525i, Volvo 940, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Chevrolet Tahoe were all also very popular models among gangsters of the 90s. Yet, the most desired car was the Mercedes S600. It was outrageously expensive, so the only top mafia bosses could afford one. Too bad for them it was often blown to pieces on the streets of Moscow.

Start a legal business

Towards the end of the “wild 90s”, the rule of law began reemerging in Russia. Crime, racketeering, and uncontrolled violence were no longer tolerated and state institutions gained enough power to push even the most notorious gangsters out of business.

Starting over with new legal businesses was the only way to survive for those criminals who realized that remaining in the shadow was no longer a viable option.

So maybe, if you want to look like you belong, just start with this step and skip the rest!

Take this QUIZ to see if you can join the Russian mafia... and survive.

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