The Outsiders

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Greaser Hair Symbol Icon
The greasers' long, slick hair is a symbol of their gang, both to themselves and to others. When Ponyboy and Johnny cut and dye their hair while in hiding they're taking a symbolic step outside the gang. As a result, Ponyboy feels less secure, but also gains a bit of room in which to develop his individuality.

Greaser Hair Quotes in The Outsiders

The The Outsiders quotes below all refer to the symbol of Greaser Hair. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Divided Communities Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Speak edition of The Outsiders published in 2006.
Chapter 1 Quotes
Greasers can't walk alone too much or they'll get jumped, or someone will come by and scream "Greaser!" at them...We get jumped by the Socs. I'm not sure how you spell it, but it's the abbreviation for the Socials, the jet set, the West-side rich kids. It's like the term "greaser," which is used to class all us boys on the East Side.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker)
Related Symbols: Greaser Hair
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Ponyboy outlines the class divide between rival gangs, the Greasers and the Socs.

"Soc" stands for "the Socials." The group is made up of wealthy kids that have grown up on the West side of town. The name "Greaser" is a reference to the greasy hair of the poorer kids on the East side of town. Ponyboy and his gang live in hatred and fear of the Socs, who constantly attempt to fight them.

Although Ponyboy is only 14, his sense of class divide is very clear. They are rich; he is poor. They are the haves; he is the have-not. Their affluence makes them a threat. 

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Chapter 12 Quotes
Suddenly it wasn't only a personal thing to me. I could picture hundreds of boys living on the wrong sides of cities, boys with black eyes who jumped at their own shadows. Hundreds of boys who maybe watched sunsets and looked at the stars and ached for something better. I could see boys going down under street lights because they were mean and tough and hated the world, and it was too late to tell them there was still good in it...There should be some help, someone to tell them before it was too late. Someone should tell their side of the story, and maybe people would understand then and wouldn't be so quick to judge a boy by the amount of hair oil he wore.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sunsets and Sunrises, Greaser Hair
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

Johnny’s note to Ponyboy makes him realize that there are other entire communities of young people without opportunities, just like the Greasers or even worse off—kids that are limited by their poverty, their appearance, or their zip code. Boys who watch the same sunsets and dream of a better life. After this epiphany, Ponyboy calls his English teacher, who has given him an assignment to write on any theme he wants. He asks his teacher if he can write a longer paper. He realizes that this, these boys, and this moment is what he wants to write about. His own identity is found through the pen, not through gang allegiance, rumbles, or poverty. 

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Greaser Hair Symbol Timeline in The Outsiders

The timeline below shows where the symbol Greaser Hair appears in The Outsiders. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
...from the East Side and are poorer than the West Side Socs. Greasers wear their hair long, dress in jeans and leather jackets, and some steal, rob, and fight in public.... (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
...next to Ponyboy. Five Socs get out. They taunt Ponyboy, threaten to cut off his hair with a switchblade, and pin him down. He fears for his life and attempts in... (full context)
Chapter 5
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
...has bought some peroxide, and insists that they disguise themselves by cutting and dyeing their hair. Ponyboy is reluctant to change his hairstyle, which he says makes him look "tuff" and... (full context)
Chapter 9
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
The Curtis brothers prepare for the rumble by putting on nice clothes and slicking their hair. Ponyboy, still feeling ill and out of it, takes five aspirin while no one's looking. (full context)