With his D.A. pompadour, black leather jacket, white t-shirt, denim jeans and hi-top sneakers, the greaser liked fast cars, loose girls, and rock and roll. The greaser was a fashion conscious suburban kid who felt the angst of teenage years, but didn’t have much to rebel against. James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause was the adolescent emblem of these turbulent years, and gave a voice for the collective confusion. Hormones were going crazy, you were desperate to fit in and yet be an individual, and all you wanted was to understand the world around you. So unlike the bopper, who was raging against broken homes and class injustice, the greaser just wanted to be left alone…at least from his parents’ expectations.
The greaser’s dress was a strict uniform: ‘stovepipe’ skinny-legged denim jeans were cuffed up to high ankle, white t-shirts were rolled up to show off the biceps and hold cigarette packs, the black leather jacket guaranteed a tough outer shell to go with the tough-guy attitude, and the comb in the back pocket maintained a perfect coif. Greasers pommaded their pompadours with hearty helpings of Vasoline orBrylcreem hair grease, from which they received their name. Nothing was as slick or sleek as the greaser's hair… just don't touch it.
Sometimes a gabardine ‘gasoline’ jacket would replace the leather jacket for casual wear, and hefty black leather engineer boots would replace the Converse All-Star hi-top sneaker when there was a rumble going on. While many carried switchblades, it was more to stab car tires than other greasers, and many times was just a switchblade comb. John Travolta’s Danny Zuko in the 1978 50’s nostalgia movie Grease exemplified the typical Greaser lifestyle: playing bad boy because it was cool, not because you were bad.
The greasers’ chicks separated themselves from the “Peggy Sues” with equal extremes. They cut off their prissy ponytails for short pincurl or poodle cuts, and wore neck scarves to hide hickeys. Tight shirts, slim skirts or cigarette pants, and winkle-picker stiletto heels (not the Candies disco slides like Sandy’s bad girl in Grease), these ladies taunted the boys with a constant reminder of what “good girls” in their sweater sets and poodle skirts wouldn’t give them. But while these girls loved to taunt, petting was usually the end of the line. Getting into any kind of real trouble was not for middle class suburban girls, even if they were rebels.
Drag racing, late night rumbles and “necking” while Elvis blared from the front seat: it just didn’t get any sweeter than the life of a greaser.