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:).
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.
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.
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.
...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)