Tribal Founder Bobby Ruiz Documents History Behind “C/S”

C/S logo

The term “C/S,” short for “con safos,” is becoming a very trendy symbol in the tattoo world, and not just among Chicanos, but across the board — white kids, hipsters, etc.

Despite it’s popularity, not everyone knows its meaning and/or where it comes from.

From our understanding, it’s a term that dates back to, at least, the 1940’s/50’s, and was used as a sign-off on Chicano “placas” and graffiti throughout the Southwestern U.S. among Chicanos. Some say, it would mean “with respect”, or as literally translated “with safety.”

In an effort to clarify it’s origins and meaning, Tribal Gear founder Bobby Ruiz has launched The C/S Project, which doubles as a series of online videos that document his mission to explain what the street icon is all about, through interviews with individuals in the graffiti, tattoo, gangbangin’ and car cultures; and an invitation-only merch program for established tattoo shops, custom car houses, pin-stripers, bands, and more … worldwide.

However, as he set out to tackle the project, he learned a lot about it himself, and will reveal what he’s learned through his newly launched website.

“In the beginning, it was kind of a mission to define it, because I grew up seeing it. Since I was a little, little kid, I would see my dad and my uncles use it and I’d see it on the walls,” Ruiz tells of the project’s inception. “This was in the mid-70s. It was always around, but I started seeing it more now in tattoos and tattoo flash [as of late]. I started see it on, more, white kids — it was bleeding into the hipster and just the whole tattoo scene.

“It’s the oldest icon from the streets that I know of. Before trece (or 13), there was C/S, there was con safos,” he continues. “It was a prideful thing in the beginning, and I was curious about the origins as well.”

After months of gathering info, Ruiz launched the project online, debuting a series of interviews with west coast O.G.’s such as Eriberto Oriol, Mister Cartoon, Jack Rudy, Estevan Oriol, and Mark Mahoney, as well as discussions with icons of the younger generations like veteran tattoo/graf artist Norm, San Diego-based tattoo artist Flaks, and more.

During filming, Ruiz admits that interpretations of what C/S meant were all over the place, but hopes what he’s done will give the generations to come an understanding of the term they probably wouldn’t get otherwise.

“I was trying to get these different definitions. It was kinda weird the way definition kind of went all of the place at times,” he says. “I was out on a fishing boat once, and these two deckhands had it on them — two white kids. I had a few beers in me, so I hit them up like, ‘Hey, what the f*** do you know about Con Safos?’ They came with some sort of half-assed answer. From there, I started seeing it more and more, so I went to my dad and he told me what he knew about it. He gave me his definition, and then I started interviewing some of the original muralists from Chicano Park (San Diego). I tried to get as O.G. as I could with it.”

Currently, the website features a handful of the interviews Bobby has filmed, but more are to come, and he tells us the project will reveal an even further history of C/S, which will be released in the coming months.

Additionally, The C/S Project boasts a selection of C/S-branded tees and other merch, created alongside established business within the culture, from Goodfellas Tattoo to the Arcadia-based Ink Shop. As of press time, however, merch is only available for a select number of shops, but others are slated to be introduced in the coming months.

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  1. So now i know the meaning and origin, ive seen it on instagram more now than ever, i wonder if they know what means. But did that mean if i get it is it gang affiliated? Cuz i can’t even get a spurs symbol down here in an antonio because of what it means, sucks cuz i love my spurs and can’t even show for it.

  2. I have con safos tattooed on my left shoulder. My boyfriend is a tattooer. To have con safos tattooed on you is an honor. It can only be tattooed on you by someone who also has con safos tattooed on them. For someone to tattoo con safos on you means they have the utmost respect for you and they have your back and will keep you safe. It’s a vow, essentially. These poser kids who have it without knowing the meaning or got it without following the con safos rules make me sick. Also, you don’t ask for someone to tattoo con safos on you. They offer. You aren’t supposed to go into a tattoo shop and ask for it. That’s not the way it works.

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