The Mighty Mongrel Mob: An Example of Tribal Aesthetics

Recently Vice published a photo series taken of men from the Mighty Mongrel Gang in New Zealand.

Fascinating isn’t a strong enough word to describe these men. I’m going to remove all moral assessments of who these men are and what they’ve done. It’s very easy for me to sit here, on my porch in the suburbs, typing on a Macbook, to say that these are bad men.

In all honesty, I think I immediately go there because they intimidate me. Hell, they terrify me. I can’t imagine being face-to-face with one of these men.

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So it’s easy for me to write them off as bad. What I can’t do is say they’re not good at being men. When it comes to the amoral virtues of Brett McKay’s Provide, Protect, and Procreate along with Jack Donovan’s Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor, these mobsters are most likely excellent at being men.

With that as our base, and understanding that this is a style blog, I want to talk about their appearance.

It’s men like these who prove it a lie when other’s say things like “real men don’t care about the way they look. They just do what they do and don’t care what anybody thinks of them.”

This doesn’t happen when a man doesn’t care about how is appearance influences people around him.

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There is meaning and intentionality in the colors, materials, styles and cuts they choose to wear. All of these are reflective of the men and what they want to advertise to the world around them.

Their tattoos are an excellent way of demonstrating loyalty to their tribe while removing themselves completely from the rest of society. These men are so committed to their way of life that they have permanently altered their appearances in a way that makes them completely incapable of escaping the tribe from which they originate. That same loyalty is indicative in their clothing.

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Notice the fascist aesthetic and the nazi symbolism? These are not men who are concerned about whether or not the rest of the world believes them to be nice, tolerant, or non-judgmental. They don’t need us to like them. They don’t care what we think. We are not part of their tribe and they want us to be afraid of them.

And it doesn’t stop with just the men. They understand that a tribe’s ability to continue to remain relevant depends on its growth. Growth stems from ritual, and much of the way we dress ourselves each day is related to ritual. An office worker goes through the ritual of putting on a suit and tie each day. A member of the Mongrel Mob has his ceremonial and ritualized clothing.┬áThey pass these rituals and this aesthetic identity along to their women and children to ensure that the tribal identity is congruent for all members and that its values are upheld by the following generation.

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Is their clothing what makes them men or makes their tribe? Absolutely not. But they would look entirely different and therefore communicate something entirely different were these portraits taken in bespoke suits.

Meet The Author


Tanner is the founder and primary author of Masculine Style. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife and two kids, and helps run Beckett & Robb – a men’s clothing company built around custom suits and shirts.

  • josh

    These photos remind me of Goldie

    https://www.google.com.au/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=goldie+portraits&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&gfe_rd=cr&ei=qjJxVfqUM67u8wfoxoHoDQ

    and I really like the way the have given the moko a modern twist (the Maori name for the facial tattoos is moko). The Maori have a strong tribal culture and no doubt lots of those guys are members of one of the Maori tribes. Heck, I don’t even have Maori blood but my family basically consider ourselves to be Tainui. It’s not actually as unusual as you would think to see people sporting a moko, especially the older generations.

    It’s also interesting how they have incorporated pieces of other cultures into theirs, such as the Nazi swastikas and the British bulldog, it kind of remind me of the German Landsknecht.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landsknecht

    I have varying experiences with the Mongrel Mob, I trained for a bit at a MMA gym they set up in West Auckland, they were great guys, and one of my best memories is submitting a 120kg dude in a practice sparring match.

    But then some Mob guys also set fire to my father-in-laws car because he wouldn’t give them his dog (mostly because he suspected they would use it for dog fights).

  • Jeremy

    Reminds me of that movie based on the darker side of Maori Culture “Once Were Warriors” with Jake the Muss running around causing havoc and trying to solve problems with his fists.