Friday, August 15, 2014

Real World Origins of the Pink Shirt Gang

For those of you who have read "In the Shadows of Myrmidons", you may be wondering about some of what you've read. Hopefully you enjoyed the story nonetheless.
At any rate.
What in the world was I thinking when I came up with the pink shirt gang? What kind of street gang wears pink dress shirts? Does it mean anything?
Journey back with me to 2003 through 2005. If you're in my target audience, you would have been maybe in the 4 - 9 yr old range, and probably barely old enough to remember fashions of that time. Well, the origin of the pink shirt gang starts there.
The first Reptilian Authority story (now, "In the Shadows of Myrmidons") had always featured Snake and his friends fighting and overcoming the gangs of Alphacowomooga High in addition to the usual elitist jerks prevalent in most high schools. Actually, I found middle school to be worse in that respect, but high school had a few punks I recall. 
When this story was revised from where it had started, a more solid threat than several gangs was needed. Like a big gang taking over. Also, it hadn't helped that Nick had lost his original story, and neither of us recalled all of the details, and so starting over helped me to realize we needed something.
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, and I think this also can help you aspiring writers out there, inspiration is all around you if you look. Here's how it hit me. At the time, several factors were at work serving as inspiration for the Pink Shirt Gang.
First, I had been hanging out with a guy for a little while, and he had been in a gang before, which did inspire me as well. Though maybe not how he would have liked. He was new to the church I had been attending, and he was quite fun to hang around with. At some point he ended up with a girlfriend and we all hung out together alot, and she was equally fun to hang out with. Since neither of them could drive, I spent time with both of them together and separately, and at one point his girlfriend and I went clothes shopping. (And yes, this was completely platonic on my part).
We went to Express For Men, and as I looked, I was quite taken by a pink dress shirt. I tried it on with appropriate gray pants and I really liked it. It just looked nice. But, I couldn't afford it though, and so it went back to the shelf. Or rack...
Some time later I was at a Vietnamese restaurant, and there was a man outside in a purple dress shirt. He didn't look especially thuggish, so I'm not sure how I thought of it, but the idea of a villain (or many villains) wearing a purple dress shirt took root. Pink won out in the end because I liked it more, and it was shorter to write.
More inspiration was to be found in the Axe Gang from "Kung Fu Hustle", specifically their opening dance number and how the leader takes over more and more gangs that take up the dance with him. I found it absurd that such a dangerous, and ruthless gang would be dancing so professionally, and i loved it. This flamboyance served as inspiration for me to apply similar attitude through the dress and eccentricities of Chaz and the Pinkos. Add to this the fact that I'd read (but never verified) that pink used to be considered masculine. Nowadays, getting beat up by a guy in pink may be humiliating, so there's that. Plus wearing pink might invite insults, which would be grounds for more fighting.
Looking back, this sort of application of style is actually a legitimate way that gangs can manifest themselves. The Gentlemen of Bacongo take flamboyant dress nearly (ok, totally) to an extreme and settle their disputes not with fisticuffs, but a fashion showdown. I highly recommend reading up on them and checking out pictures. Incidentally the Gentlemen of Bacongo served as inspiration for Snake's dispute with Top Jimmy.
So the Pink Shirt Gang was born through finding inspiration in just random things, then taking those and trying on various ideas. After sufficient tinkering, a hopefully unique and enjoyable villain. 

- B.

Also, buy the book here! 

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