If you run a quick Google search of the term “Omertá,” the following definition pops up: Noun. (As practiced by the Mafia) a code of silence about criminal activity and a refusal to give evidence to authorities. But it’s also a term referring to a streetwear brand that is based on that same definition. Omertá aims to restore a kind of gentleman’s code, wherein men settle their grievances discretely, and work to make their communities a better place for all. We got a chance to speak with the Omerta Brand creators about the origins of the name, and the lifestyle that surrounds the clothes.

Can you talk a little bit abut the Omerta name…where it comes from and what it means to you personally?
The Omerta concept has long been considered an old school “street code”. This code is commonly affiliated with the names of mafiosos past and present. In our opinion Omerta is not just about gangsters, gangs or thugs, it’s about carrying yourself as an exemplary man or more importantly, a gentleman. Times were different back in the “good ole days” when men handled their own. A handshake meant something then; it was a representation of your word. There was no cop calling no tattle tailing; vendettas were settled on the streets mano a mano. There was a unspoken pride that came along with being a true old fashioned gentleman and some gentlemen happened to become legendary gangsters. Circumstances might have changed lives but core values remained the same. Respect had to be earned, honor was your word, and loyalty was a trait you’d fight to the grave for. At Omerta we try to exemplify these beliefs in our personal lives and through our brand we continually strive to instill these values back into society. We practice what we preach and print on our clothing. It’s important for us to lead by example because talk is cheap and actions will always speak louder than words. Please continue to walk with your head held high, live your life by the Gentleman’s Code and be proud to be a representation of a lifestyle that has a deep rooted meaning in all cultures and social classes.

What does the idea of a Gentleman’s code mean to you and how does it play in to your everyday life?
The Gentleman’s Code concept to us means waking up each morning with the goal of being a better man than you were the day before. We try to exemplify being a man of class and character and we hope by doing so other men follow suit. We look after our families, friends and community and try to make positive moves in our daily lives and encourage others to do the same.

Who are the historical figures that influence the Omerta brand? What about them do you admire?
Men like Joseph Colombo, Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky. Gangsters that were businessmen and that operated under the radar. Joseph Colombo was an alleged mafia boss and had a passion for Italian American civil rights. He became such an influential figure in NY that he was actually voted one of the powerful men in the city and graced the cover of Time magazine in 1971. He formed the Italian American Civil Rights League with his son Anthony and organized pickets and demonstrations against the FBI, NYPD, and the government overall. These authorities constantly harassed him and the constant mistreatment helped fuel his passion to be heard. The day Joseph Colombo was shot he had helped organize over 200,000 peaceful protestors in Columbus Circle NY. He was set to address the crowd that day and give a speech when an attempt on his life was carried out. Mr. Colombo’s murder is still unsolved to this day and many theories point to government and police involvement in his death. You can read more about Joseph Colombo in a new book that recently came out called Colombo; The Unsolved Murder. It’s a great read.

Frank Costello was another influential figure that had political connections that were unheard of at his time. He infiltrated and helped corrupt Tammany Hall in NY. He had politicians, judges, businessmen and many other powerful authority figures on mafia payroll. He was so highly connected and respected he was nicknamed “The Prime Minister of the Underworld”.

One of the Omerta shirts says “Gangster not Gangsta,” what was the inspiration for that?
Our brand name is associated with Mafia culture and code of conduct. Gangsters used to carry themselves with dignity. They stayed sharply dressed and suited up. They took pride in what they represented and commanded respect. Gangsters existed and still do in all races and social classes. Today’s youth that try to rep that “Gangsta/Thug” life don’t abide by any codes of conduct. They work to destroy their communities instead of building them up. They have selfish intentions and are quick to drop a dime on allies and enemies. They portray an image that they’re not really about. To us that’s not the Gangster way.

With “Stop Glorifying Rats” tee, do you feel like that’s a problem with our current day and age? What do you think causes it?
Yeah we definitely think it’s a problem in our society these days. Back in the old days if you were a rat/snitch you were signing your own death certificate. Today, individuals rat on each other, get out of custody and go right back into the community like nothing happened. This occurs in all aspects of crime these days; blue collar, white collar etc. On top of that they have the audacity to try to sell their story and glorify the fact they committed these crimes and snitched to gain their freedom back. We’re disgusted by these individuals and want to shine a spotlight on this situation. That’s why we did the ‘Stop Glorifying Rats” shirt design. It’s one of our most popular shirt designs right now.