Greaser (subculture)

Greaser (subculture)

Greasers are a working class youth subculture that originated in the 1950s among young eastern and Southern United States street gangs, and then became popular among other types of people. In the 1950s and early 1960s, these youths were known as hoods. [Marcus, Daniel. "Happy Days and Wonder Years: The Fifties and the Sixties in Contemporary Cultural Politics". New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004. p. 12.]

Their name came from their greased back hair, which involved combing back hair with wax, gel, creams, tonics or pomade. Other popular greases used were olive oil or petroleum jelly. Some greasers worked at gas stations or shops that repaired cars or motorcycles. The greaser style was imitated by many youths not associated with gangs, as an expression of rebellion. The term "greaser" reappeared in later decades as part of a revival of 1950s popular culture. Films and TV shows that feature the greaser subculture include: "American Graffiti", "Roadracers", "Cry Baby", the "Grease" films, "Happy Days", "The Outsiders", "The Wanderers" and "American Hot Wax".


Common items in a greaser's wardrobe included Sir Guy shirts, white or black T-shirts (often with the sleeves rolled up); white A-shirts (as outerwear); Italian knit shirts; "Daddy-O"-style shirts; black, blue or khaki work jackets, black or brown trenchcoats, Levi denim jackets; leather motorcycle jackets; gray or black waist length Cabretta leather jackets; quilted work jackets; blue or black Levi's 501 or 505 jeans (with the cuffs turned up about four inches); baggy cotton twill work trousers. These were referred to as baggie grays, baggie blues or sandbags. As this became fashion, clothing makers responded with outrageous colors like fluorescent green. Motorcycle boots, such as harness boots and engineer boots; army boots; tapered toe Italian shoes; brothel creeper shoes; cowboy boots; Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars basketball shoes; bandannas; stingy-brim hats and flat-caps and chain wallets. Tattoos were also very common, particularly for teenage males who wanted to portray a "tough guy look" in a way to be feared and respected. Many greasers would carry an Italian stiletto switch blade as a weapon. Tattooing for greasers became more popular towards the late 1950's (1957 and up) as tattoos became less exclusive at the time and appealed more to hoodlums and punks rather than the selected few that tattoos had been originally associated with.

Common hairstyles included the pompadour, the "Duck's Ass" and the more combed-back "Folsom" style. These hairstyles were held in place with generous amounts of hair wax (pomade). Popular brands included Royal Crown, Dax, Black & White and Murray's.


The term greaser reappeared during in the 1970s in the United States, during a revival of 1950s youth culture. One of the first manifestations of this revival was a 1971 American 7 Up television commercial that featured a 1950s greaser saying "Hey remember me? I'm the teen angel." The act Sha Na Na also played a major role.

Movies featuring greasers included "The Lords of Flatbush" (1974), the "Grease" and "Eddie and the Cruisers" film duos, "Cry-Baby" (1990), "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008), "True Romance" (1993), "Walk The Line" (2005), "American Graffiti" (1973), "Christine" (1983), "Eskimo Limon" (1977), "Flick" (2008), "The Wanderers" (1979), and "The Outsiders" (1983), a more accurate and tragic portrayal, in the lower class, Southern environment that the culture originated in. Greasers also appeared in the "Happy Days" television series (1974-1984).

Andrew Dice Clay dresses and acts like a greaser during his comedy act. Greasers appear as one of the six school cliques in the 2006 Rockstar Vancouver video game Bully. In 2007, World Wrestling Entertainment introduced a tag team on their "SmackDown!" brand featuring greasers Deuce 'n Domino along with their poodle skirt wearing, roller skating, gum popping valet Cherry.

Alternate names

The greaser subculture was largely an American youth phenomenon, but had similar counterparts in other countries. The 1950s and 1960s British equivalent to the greaser was the rocker, who evolved from the Teddy Boys and Ton-Up Boys. In the United Kingdom, the term greaser only came into use in the 1970s, when Hells Angels and hippie bikers became prevalent. Members of rival subcultures in the UK, such as skinheads, sometimes referred to greasers simply as "grease."

*Australia and New Zealand - "Bodgie" (female equivalent was "Widgie")
*Sweden - "Raggare"
*Norway - "Rånere"
*South Africa - "Ducktails"
*France - "Blousons Noirs" ("black jackets"}
*The Netherlands - "Nozems" or the Amsterdam variant "Dijkers"
*Ireland - "Nadsacks" from the Gaelic "Gnad", meaning grease or oil
*Germany, Austria and Switzerland) - "Halbstarke" or "Rocker"
*Rhode Island - "Mondos"

See also

*Almighty Gaylords
*Hot Rod
*Leather jacket
*Mods and Rockers
*Motorcycle club
*The Outsiders
*Rock and roll
*Rocker jacket
*Rocker (subculture) - The British counterpart to the greaser


External links

* [ Chicago Greasers]
* [ Stone Greasers]

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