Guido [gwee-doh] is a slang term for a lower-class or working-class urban Italian American. Originally, it was used as a demeaning term for Italian Americans in general. More recently, it has come to refer to Italian Americans who conduct themselves in a thuggish, overtly macho manner.

The time period in which it obtained the latter meaning is not clear, but some sources date it to the 1970s or 1980s. The term is derived from either the proper name ‘Guido’ or the Italian verb ‘guidare’ (‘to drive’). Fishermen of Italian descent were once often called ‘Guidos’ in medieval times.

 The term is used in metropolitan areas associated with large Italian-American populations, such as New York, Ohio, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. In other areas, terms such as ‘Mario’ (Chicago) and ‘Gino’ (East Haven Connecticut; Toronto; Montreal) have a meaning similar to guido. Although some Italians self-identify as ‘guidos,’ the term is often considered derogatory or an ethnic slur.

The term caused controversy in 2009 when MTV used it in promotions for the reality television show ‘Jersey Shore.’ This spurred objections from Italian-American organizations such as Unico National, NIAF, the Order Sons of Italy in America, and the Internet watchdog organization ItalianAware. Although MTV removed the term from some promotions, it remains closely associated with the show, and some of the cast members use it regularly to describe themselves (the females sometimes refer to themselves as ‘guidettes.’)

Stereotypical guido clothing includes muscle shirts or ‘guinea Ts’ (derived from the term ‘guinea,’ another ethnic slur for Italians), tracksuits, scally caps, unbuttoned dress shirts, and often typical Italian ‘terrone’ (lit. ‘farmer’; a derogatory term for Italians south of Bologna) club dress. Slicked-back hair and pompadours, blowouts, tapers, poofs, fades and heavily pomaded or gelled hair are also popular.

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