An Introduction to Guido Culture


An Introduction to Guido Culture 


Often times, the isolation of an ethnic group combined with media influences can lead to the creation of stereotypes and disparaging public images. In the case of the Italian-American community in Howard Beach, several key incidents have had a great effect on (and will continue to affect) the reputation of Italian-Americans in New York. These assaults brought attention to the youth sub-culture known as "guido," a term familiar to anyone who has seen the television show The Jersey Shore. Controversial, even down to the name, we tread lightly in our research.

 The Italian-American youth of today stands in stark contrast to generations of past years. “Guido” culture has been personified. Spiked hair, big muscles, fast cars, and gold jewelry are the new images of Italian-American youth. There is a newfound appreciation for being Italian. One cannot be a proper guido if he is not Italian. Bumper stickers with Italian flags and “Italian Night” at clubs are not rare sights. Although guido culture does not have much to do with Italy, per se, it does, in fact, inspire a certain pride in one’s origin. As these youths tend to age and get married, the big muscles fade a bit and the luxury cars turn into mini-vans, but their love for and pride of everything Italian remains in their hearts.

In the past, many Italian-American youths formed their own exclusive groups and bonds. This tight circle of friendship between young men, and the emphasis of male strength and sexuality played an important role in the past generations and is still a strong influence on Italian-American youth today. In "Guido: An Italian-American Youth Style," the author mentions that male guido attire “accents their muscularity, a central peer group value” and that they listen to rap music that furnish “lyrics that portray masculine swagger,” which proves in essence, that values have not dramatically changed. Similarly, in a more modern display of the aforementioned trait of “sexual potency,” masculinity is “manifest in an aggressive attitude” towards females who are seen as “decorous sex objects” rather than peers.

Through the Eyes of the Media




This collection of photos depict how the media portrays "Guidos." “Guidos” or “Cugines” –the Italian word for cousin –look to pop culture and the media to define their sense of style. In order to be considered a Guido and to gain acceptance from fellow Guidos, one must prove one's Italian ancestry and conform to the vernacular and life that comes with calling oneself a Guido. Guido males are characterized as “muscle-heads” with “fresh” haircuts, put together style, gold jewelry, and expensive cars. A Guido’s job is to look expensive, appear tough, get girls, and constantly show off both his physical appearance and the monetary value of his items.

Origin of the "Gudio"

Donald Tricarico, Ph. D.

In 1991, Dr. Donald Tricarico, a professor of Sociology at Queensborough Community College, published his essay "Guido: Fashioning An Italian-American Youth Style." in The Journal of Ethnic Studies. Much of our analyses are based on his work in the field of Italian-American culture.

Tricarico wrote that there was an “erosion of a traditional family and community culture” which allowed youths to easily embrace a hedonistic lifestyle. The lessening of adult restrictions gave youths the ability to make their own decisions. In some ways it is similar to children who formed their own groups based on their own values upon coming to America. Tricarico also notes that there exists an aggression in guido subculture by the males and there is some correlation to a history of defending and showing dominance of a territory,  emphasizing a defense of their area from other ethnic groups. The incident at Howard Beach may have been an example of a gang of young males protecting their turf. Formations of strong male camaraderie happens often and friends “got each other’s backs,” meaning they’ll support one another or fight for one another, even if the odds are against them, such as the club fight example given by Tricarico. Mafia movies and connections also greatly influence the youth of today and many gangs consisting of young men are picked up by or are overseen by local mafia members, who garner a lot of respect from youth in the Italian-American community.