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A spide is a pejorative stereotype in Northern Ireland, particularly in Belfast, used to refer to young, working class thuggish males.[1] The female version of a spide is a "millie", a term that is decades old and formerly referred to girls who worked in the Belfast mills. Essentially the equivalent to the English "chav", many negative perceptions are associated with the stereotype. These include allegations that they engage in anti-social behaviour including drug dealing, car theft, joyriding, and loitering in public places in large groups, usually drinking alcohol and causing commotion. They are also seen as boy racers that drive inconsiderately in "souped-up" 1990s era hot hatches and sedans, particularly Vauxhalls and Hondas. Many are unemployed and live off benefits. In terms of dress code, they are perceived as having high and tight haircuts and being clad in jewellery and sportswear, usually baseball caps, Berghaus and Helly Hansen jackets, tracksuits and Nike Air Max trainers.

Other slang terms for "spides" include "smicks", "mokes", "steeks" and "jants". The use of these terms often depends on the town, city or county within Northern Ireland.

Origin of the name[edit]

The name is thought to have originated in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During this time "tartan gangs" were popular in Belfast. Due to the tartan patterns of their jeans, they gained the nickname "spidermen", later shortened to "spide". While the tartan gangs of the time were closely associated with the Loyalist groupings of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Young Militants (UYM), the term spide is applied to youths from both the loyalist and republican communities, and appears to be wholly without sectarian bias. Spides may support the paramilitary organisations of their background, such as the UDA or IRA.

The name may also have originated as a reference to elbow or neck spider web tattoos before it gradually gained a more general meaning to cover young people from working class areas.

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