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Handstyle or hand style is a term in graffiti culture denoting the unique handwriting or signature of an artist, also known as a writer.[1] Handstyle can also be shortened to "hand." Much like fonts on one's computer or calligraphy there are many different handstyles. Writers, crews, or cities, can be said to have a unique handstyle.[2]

The concept of a unique and expressive handstyle developed over time.[3] In the New York and Philadelphia in the 70s, a tag's style was the writer's personal handwriting.[3] Over time, the concept of a handstyle emerged through the stylizing of these tags.

Handstyles can be used as the basis for evaluation. Writers are usually perceived as having "good" or "bad" handstyles by those in the graffiti community.[4] Usually, aesthetically-pleasing and consistent styles are preferred, while bad hands are considered as lacking practice or style.[4]

Regional handstylesEdit

Handstyles are usually unique to each writer and are commonly used to write one's tag. Handstyles can also be regional or shared between several writers. For example, in the 70s and 80s, the cities of Philadelphia and Chicago had distinct handstyles.[2]

In 2013, Boathouse Gallery in Los Angeles held an art exhibition to display regional-specific, "cholo" handstyles.[4][5] These styles descended from gang writing in Chicano neighborhoods in the 60s and 70s,[4] although they trace some elements back to hand-painted gang lettering in the 40s.[5] The handstyle can be described as "elegant, single-line scripts." The style has been popularized by writers such as Chaz Bjorquez, CRYPTIK, DEFER, SLEEPS, PRIME. The L.A. handstyle has reached global significance, especially within the art world through galleries, exhibitions, and collections.[4]


  1. ^ Schacter, Rafael (2013-09-03). The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300199420.
  2. ^ a b Powers, Stephen (1999-10-01). The Art of Getting Over: Graffiti at the Millennium. Macmillan. ISBN 9780312206307.
  3. ^ a b Kramer, Ronald (2016-11-23). The Rise of Legal Graffiti Writing in New York and Beyond. Springer. ISBN 9789811028007.
  4. ^ a b c d e Ross, Jeffrey Ian (2016-03-02). Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art. Routledge. ISBN 9781317645863.
  5. ^ a b "Video Smogtown presents "Alphabet Soup" Group exhibition Recap". Graffuturism. Retrieved 2017-03-20.