Greaser (subculture)

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Typical North American greaser of Quebec. (circa 1960)

Greasers were a youth subculture that originated in the 1950s among teenagers in northeastern and southern United States. Rock and roll music was a major part of the culture, and styles were influenced by singers such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Ritchie Valens. In the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, these youths were also known as "hoods". This may be due to the fact that the style was more popular in working class neighborhoods that had higher crime rates than upper class neighborhoods.[1]

The name "greaser" came from their greased-back hairstyle, which involved combing back hair using hair wax, hair gel, creams, tonics or pomade. The term "greaser" reappeared in later decades as part of a revival of 1950s popular 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 music act Sha Na Na also played a major role in the revival.

Although the greaser subculture was largely a North American youth phenomenon, there were similar subcultures in the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Japan, Sweden, Germany, and South Africa. The 1950s and 1960s British equivalent was the rocker, also known as a ton-up boy. Unlike British rockers, who were exclusively bikers, North American greasers were known more for their love of hot rod cars, kustoms and vans, not necessarily motorcycles. Both subcultures are known for being fans of 1950s rock and roll and rockabilly music.


Clothing usually worn by greasers included fitted T-shirts (often with the sleeves rolled up); ringer T-shirts; Italian knit shirts; Baseball shirts; bowling shirts; "Daddy-O"-style shirts; denim jackets; leather jackets; black or blue jeans (with rolled-up cuffs anywhere from one to four inches), baggy cotton twill work trousers, black leather pants or vests, bomber jackets, letterman jackets, tank tops, khaki pants and suits. Common accessories included bandannas; black leather gloves; fedoras; motorcycle helmets; vintage leather caps; stingy-brim hats; flat caps and chain wallets. Common footwear included motorcycle boots, such as harness boots or engineer boots; army boots; winklepickers; brothel creepers; cowboy boots and Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars.

Typical hairstyles included the pompadour, the Duck's ass, S-Curls, Finger Waves, Afros with parts or shaped like pompadours, and the more combed-back "Folsom" style. These hairstyles were held in place with pomade, wax, or hair creams such as Brylcreem.

Portrayals in popular culture[edit]

1949 Mercury, a greaser favorite

Greasers are sometimes portrayed as urban working class "ethnics," often Italian American, Irish American, African American, or Hispanic American, and (rarely) Chinese American, but the most common stereotypical ethnicity in media is Italian American[citation needed] Notable exceptions include films such as The Wild One (1953), Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and The Outsiders (1983), which portrayed a more rural, white, non-ethnic, southern or midwestern United States variant of the greaser subculture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marcus, Daniel (2004). Happy Days and Wonder Years: The Fifties and the Sixties in Contemporary Cultural Politics. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-8135-3390-2.