The teenage angst suffered in Rebel without a Cause was innocent compared to the frightening new lifestyle of the street savvy Bopper. These kids were the ultimate rebels: they had more than angst—they suffered abandonment and rage unlike America had seen before.
The safe environment of the nuclear family was broken when fathers didn’t return from the war, or couldn’t re-adjust to their life back home and abandoned their families. Urban ghettos exploded with the new 'fatherless' households. The neglected teens from broken homes banded together into 'gangs' that represented the family many of them lacked. If you weren’t a Bopper, the best you could hope for was that you wouldn’t run into one while invading his ‘turf.’
Marlon Brando's biker style in the 1951 film The Wild One influenced the leather and denim style of the teenage rebel. But while greasers were making fashion statements in the suburbs, the Boppers had already carved a place for themselves in the gritty urban slums. The switchblades they carried were real and bloodstained. Their motorcycle jackets were more than fashion: they helped to protect against knife wounds and falls from their bikes. Their Levis were straight legged and slim in fit, the hems turned up into large cuffs. Tough leather engineer boots and chain belts completed the uniform.
Boppers cruised the streets in their hot rods, staking claim to their territory and drag racing with rival gangs. They adopted a slang way of speaking from the new 'bepop' artists found in urban jazz nightclubs, and used the term 'bopping' for fighting. Bopper girls were dubbed 'debs', and wore tight clothes with tousled, sex kitten hair. They gave freely what good girls kept sacred. While sweethearts were looking to get their beau’s class ring, the debs were stashing their man’s “piece” (his weapon). These were the girls and boys your parents warned you about, but darned if they didn’t look sharp.