It seems Berlin hip hop fashion is developing its own special look – one that doesn’t necessarily rely on US imports. The fashion for young males in Kreuzberg and Neukölln is hard and simple with a few flash elements: a leather bomber jacket with a Chinese dragon, for instance, worn over a T-shirt with some brand logo – preferably in gold lettering – a gold or silver chain, Picaldi (also founded by a Turkish Berliner) jeans and the latest trainers. Camouflage is definitely a must. So is a big, fat, silver watch. And, here and there on the U-bahn or in the street, you’ll also spot a T-shirt, sweatshirt or hat bearing the “36 Boys” logo, from the clothing line named after the legendary Turkish street gang.
Sinan Tosun is the owner of the 36 Boys shop at Kottbusser Tor. A Turk, a Berliner, a Kreuzberger, Sinan says the line is popular with his mostly Turkish clientele, which ranges in age from “seven to 50”. Kids wear it, and their parents do too because they identify with what it stands for: Kreuzberg SO36, the area around Kottbusser Tor – the gang’s home turf.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, 36 Boys was Berlin’s most feared Turkish street gang. The 36 Boys fought battles against West Berlin skinheads; made music, graffiti; break-danced. The defining feature of 36 Boys is its logo, which is emblazoned on everything from T-shirts and sweatshirts to jackets and hats: the cut of the clothing is otherwise unexceptional. Some of the coolest T-shirts and sweatshirts also bear the word “Kreuzberg” in old Germanic script. Like the “Ost Berlin” shirts Ossie lads from Lichtenberg wear with pride, 36 Boys clothes tell the world who you are and where you’re from.