Nike Cortez: Are They Dangerous or Safe to Wear?

Made famous by American athletes during the 1972 Olympics, the Nike Cortez has become one of the most popular sneakers today. However, there are rumors that the shoe is dangerous.

Find out more in this article.

Is wearing Nike Cortez dangerous?

It used to be dangerous to wear the Nike Cortez in the streets. Back then, wearing the Nike Cortez puts a target on you from two people: the police and the rival gangs of MS-13.

In fact, between 2010 and 2017, it was thought to be impossible to go out for a walk in the streets of Los Angeles while wearing the Nike Cortez and return home alive.

A notable example is when a clueless man was almost lynched to death by gang members back in 2007 when he was found wearing a pair of Nike Cortez shoes.

Another example is when two Hispanic teens (aged 13 and 16) became targets of shootings in 2013 for failing to give a good reason why they wore the Nike Cortez shoes.

According to Gerardo Lopez (former MS-13 gang member), if you were wearing the Nike Cortez, and a gang member hit you up asking where you were from and you told them “nowhere”, you would probably get beat up because no one would believe you.

Why are Nike Cortez shoes dangerous?

With the rise of L.A. “gangster rap”, the Nike Cortez became popular under the name “Dopeman’s Nikes” from the 1987 NWA song Dopeman: “To be a dopeman boy, you must qualify. Don’t get high off your own supply.”

Wearing the Nike Cortez in the streets of Los Angeles is dangerous because you would be identified as an MS-13 gang member by other rival gang members and the police force. 

At the start of the 1990s, nothing screamed “I am a gang member” like wearing the Nike Cortez. Wearing the shoe puts a target on you from two people: the police and rival gangs to MS-13.

Why do gangsters wear Nike Cortez?

The notorious American gang MS-13 has adopted the Nike Cortez as part of their uniform, as a sign of loyalty. In fact, the shoes are regarded so highly among the ranks that wearing a pair of Nike Cortez is a show of indestructible allegiance to the MS-13 gang.

Founded in the 1980s, MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) was originally set up to protect Salvadoran immigrants from rival gangs in the Los Angeles area. Spreading throughout Central America, Canada, and Mexico, the gang established a notorious reputation for violence.

According to urban lore, the Mexican gangs took on the Nike Cortez as part of their uniform because of the chapter in Mexico’s history that inspired the sneaker’s name: the conquest of the Aztec empire by Hernan Cortés, the infamous Spanish conquistador.

The Nike Cortez became so popular among gang members because it looked intimidating. It was cheap too, costing around $25 or $30, making it affordable for gang members.

In fact, the shoe has become so closely associated with the transnational gang that police in gang areas usually assume that anyone wearing the shoe is involved with MS-13.

It got to the point where every gang in L.A. wore the Nike Cortez. Not only do Central American and Mexican gangs wear the shoe, but African American gang members also adopted it too.

During the prominence of gangsters in Los Angeles, the color of your Nike Cortez indicated which gang you were in. The Bloods gang members wear red, while the Crips wear blue.

When you saw the sneakers, you often knew it was a gang member. It even got so out of hand in the early 1990s that schools banned the shoes because they were considered “gang-related”.

Is it safe to wear Nike Cortez now?

It’s safe to wear the Nike Cortez now. Nobody is going to identify you as a gangster and jump on you because L.A. gang violence has plummeted. In fact, more people are starting to wear the Nike Cortez including celebrities like Bella Hadid, Kristen Stewart, Kaia Gerber, and more.

Today, the Nike Cortez is a fashion statement that signifies L.A. culture. You’re starting to see the shoe come back into style because it is affordable and timeless.

If don’t want to risk it, there are plenty of shoes that look similar to Nike Cortez.

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