NAPLES — As the proverb goes, the habit does not make the monk. Though when it comes to the Camorra crime sydicate's mafiosi and their tattoos, it does.
In the early days, mobsters wore rings, with ranks and the marks of different clans easily visible. In the 1980s, bosses in the Mazzarella clan, a Camorrist faction in Naples, wore rings in the shape of a lion's head. Today, the distinctive accessories are even more diverse — even in prisons.
Mafia informer Nicola Cangiano, a former member of the Casalesi gang, told anti-mafia prosecutors how the dress code imposed by the clan is strict even behind bars. "You can tell the men in the Sagaria clan apart from the others by what they wear," he said. "They all wear Samsonite shoes, designer clothes and even cashmere socks. They still get their salaries from the gang — even on the inside."
The Schiavone group has its own rules when it comes to clothing. "They all wear Hogan shoes," Cangiano continues, "and they all must keep their beards trimmed and their hair without gel, as required by Nicola Schiavone" (son of the infamous Francesco). We mustn't forget Cesare Pagano, a boss in Scampia, and his love for Paciotti shoes and T-shirts with faces of Hollywood stars on them.
But more permanent symbols have a long history among mobsters. Tattoos and the mafia date back to the early nineteenth century, when members of the Camorra loved to cover their skin to prove their loyalty and permanency, especially when they were in prison.
A 1905 drawing of a Camorrista — Soure: Storia della Camorra, by Vittorio Paliottivia
Two centuries later, a splinter group — drug traffickers from Scampia and Secondigliano — can be identified by their Rolexes. Those who can't afford the real thing have the iconic crown of the Swiss watchmakers inked onto their wrists.
During the 2004-2005 feud in Scampia, many gangsters inscribed "Do not touch my family" on their forearms — an appeal at a time when there was no hesitation to kill anyone and everyone to get to the enemy.
Last week, Italian police arrested an organization that was dealing drugs in Ponticelli, a suburb in eastern Naples. The members were young, on average about 20 years old, and they were trigger-happy — more like a Latin American gang than the Camorra clan. They've already earned the nickname "the tattooed ones," as they all marked their skin with the name of their boss.
So "Bodo" is inscribed on the forearms and backs of these young members, who are led by Marco De Micco. The font is gothic, with stylized characters, and some have decided to make the concept more clear by adding "Respect, loyalty, honor" as well.
Roberto Boccardi, at just 23, let his imagination run wild. At the bottom of his back, he has Bodo's name surrounded by two smoking guns. Just to clarify the concept.