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Greaser Delinquents

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Grady was a member of the new school of juvenile delinquency, the You-Too-Can-Be-A-Rebel School. The headmasters were Elvis Presley and the spook of Jimmy Dean, and the entrance requirements were completely democratic. A boy was no longer excluded from the glamorous ranks of the delinquents simply because he had the rotten luck not to be born in a slum; all he had to do was look as though he had. If he would wear his hair in a duck-tail cut and his sideburns at nostril level, forsake grammar, dress in black khaki trousers with the cuffs narrowed to fourteen inches, never do his homework, and spit a lot, his origins, no matter how respectable, would not be held against him.
— Parenthetical sidebar, Rally Round the Flag, Boys!
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You've seen them in nearly every work set in The '50s, and to a lesser extent, early-middle of The '60s and very early Seventies. The kids with slicked-back hair, leather jackets, and blue jeans, who listen to Rock & Roll and Rockabilly, drive fast cars (often souped-up 1930s hot rods or 1950s Corvettes or T-Birds), ride motorcycles, drink, sometimes gamble and smoke cigarettes. Greasers, also known as Rockers, Ton-Up Boys, and Hoods.

Greasers were a common subculture of the 1950s and early 1960s, known for their rebellious attitude and love of Rockabilly music. Most greasers were working-class or lower-class, often coming from an Irish, Italian or Latinonote  background. (This is the core reason that a lot of greasers in fiction tend to have either Irish or Italian surnames, such as Arthur Fonzarelli or Dally Winston.) The trend was big in the 1950s and most common in the Northeast, Midwest, Southwest, California and even parts of the upper South like in Maryland and Virginia that had sizable ethnic communities or contact with such. Many greasers formed street gangs, although the culture existed outside of gang life as well. Greasers began to fade out in the latter half of the 1960s and were pretty much gone by the mid-1970s.

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In Great Britain, they were called rockers, and lasted well into the 1970s, fighting the mod subculture left and right. In a way, they were the predecessors to Gang Bangers (the earliest street gangs of the contemporary era were greasers; more current gangs didn't really pop up until the end of the Sixties and into the Seventies), as well as the punk subculture (both were all about youth rebellion and rock music, although rockers, the descendants of greasers, fought against mods, the predecessors of punks). Even though the greaser subculture is long gone, its influence is felt today in fiction and real life; the much-hyped feuding between mods and rockers gave birth to the phrase "moral panic".

Greaser subculture archetypes helped codify tropes such as All Girls Want Bad Boys, Hell-Bent for Leather, Smoking Is Cool, and Badass Biker.

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In addition to American Greasers and British Rockers, there are also other foreign takes on the greaser subculture.

  • The French "Blousons Noirs": literally "Black Jackets", urban, poor or working-class youth who had a fascination with American culture, mostly rock'n'roll and motorcycles. Caused riots in Paris in the early 1960s. In the 1980's, particularly in the Banlieue (the poor suburbs of the big cities), the culture got fragmented into a multitude of other similar subcultures, still with the greaser culture at heart. More about it can be found here.
  • The Swedish "Raggare", who are obsessed with hot rods and American cars, but also with other aspects of American culture, especially those with connection to the 1950s and the American South. Raggare are a large, active but aging sub-culture in Sweden and have been seen on national stamps, and there are more 1950s American-made cars in their country than in the United States! An influx of American cars in the 1970s, shipped back on the same boats bringing over Saabs and Volvos, created a resurgence with Raggare coexisting with punks. Calling them "delinquents" nowadays would be a little misleading though, as most of their members today are either young adults or middle-aged men.
  • Japanese "Bosozoku" delinquents originated in the 1960s and had strong similarities to the greaser subculture until the late 1980s.
  • In Australia and New Zealand, they were known as 'bodgies and widgies', who wanted to imitate the styles of visiting American soldiers for a fraction of the budget.

The Greaser Delinquent is today more or less a Dead Horse Trope. Since the original greasers tend to be today already grandparents, the today's greasers tend to be more like history re-enactment and keeping the 'Golden Age of Rock and Roll' legacy alive rather than being antisocial louts. For example, most Raggare in Sweden tend to be rather respectable members of the society, and building, restoring and customizing historical American (and Swedish) vehicles and playing live rockabilly and rock and roll music is a hallmark of their culture. Many of the women either sew their clothes from original materials and patterns, or restore authentic clothes of the era.

The greaser is now an iconic stock character of The '50s.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece:
    • The Flying Fish Riders, just substitute motorcycles with... well, flying fish. In the English dub, their leader even sounds vaguely like Elvis (when his accent acts up), whose music was big among greasers.
    • Charlotte Anglais is a kid who tries to act like a greaser. He wears a Black jacket and ride a big caterpillar with Harley-Davidson handlebars for antennae. Due to his age, his idea of rebelling against authority is refusing to brush his teeth.
  • Space Dandy, specifically the style and attitude of the main protagonist, Dandy. However, he's not a '50s delinquent, but a space captain styled like one.

    Comic Books 
  • Travis Kidd from Scott Snyder's American Vampire is the quintessential greaser... a vampire-killing one.
  • Reggie is portrayed as a greaser in the Archie Comics (2015) reboot. He's a jerk, as he was in the original continuity.
  • Half-Life from the comic book Superboy and the Ravers was a hot-rodder from the 1950s who gained superpowers when an alien spaceship crashed on top of him and later won a flying motorcycle he was very fond of in a bet.

    Fan Works 
  • Anachronism portrays Shadow the Hedgehog as this. He's a Fish out of Temporal Water from the 1959. He speaks in outdated '50s slang, which contrasts with the Totally Radical Sonic and his own outdated '90s slang.
  • Codex Equus:
    • Blue Suede Heartstrings is a subversion. He is an Alicorn god who usually appears as a mortal, with his most preferred form being a unicorn stallion who bears the trademark pompadour, black leather jacket, and sunglasses. His entry notes that his appearance and popularity played a direct role in birthing the Second-Age Greaser movement, and after the Second Age itself ended, his reputation endured long enough that he inspired another movement in the Fourth Age. However, he has sometimes appeared in flashy outfits during concerts, and personality-wise, he's very humble, kindhearted, and friendly to almost everyone he meets. Ironically, he's also devoutly religious even after Ascending to godhood, and worships a deity that is believed by many in-universe to be the ancient god Equus, whom he calls "The King in Heaven". Many gods and goddesses have tried making him dress appropriately according to his divine station after discovering his true form, but being so humble, he always refuses to comply.
    • Floral Forte, the oldest member of the Dazzling Divas group, is a straighter example. She prefers to dress like a Greaser, and this has transferred onto her "Magical Filly" outfit, which has a mix of Greaser attire and Scottish/Trottish-style clothing. Her entry notes that her outfit has led to a bit of joking between her and Blue Suede Heartstrings, who became the Dazzling Divas' patron deity and mentor figure. Personality-wise, she is also a Jerk with a Heart of Gold as typical for Greasers - she can be rather hot-tempered, confrontation, rude, and rebellious, which contrasts with the kind and motherly side she shows around her friends, and has often gotten in trouble at school for getting into fights with bullies. Despite this, she's a good person at heart and always tries to help others even when her own life is at risk.
    • Subverted with Blue Goldstone. While he's an Alicorn god, his most preferred form is a tall and lanky Earth pony stallion with a golden-haired pompadour and a gold leather jacket. His entry notes that his Greaser getup was part of his attempts to emulate Blue Suede Heartstrings, who birthed the Greaser movement in the Second Age. However, personality-wise, he's generally humble, shy, and mild-mannered, with his worst flaws being only his inability to see Blue, his idol, as less than perfect until he learned to grow past it. The fact that he often appears as a Greaser makes his death rather ironic, as he was killed trying to save a high school classmate from being harassed by a gang of actual Greaser delinquents. His entry notes that many older gods and goddesses have tried making him look and dress appropriately to his age and divine station, but he always refuses due to feeling rather uncomfortable with wearing royal Alicorn barding/regalia.
    • Subverted with Bossa Nova Heartstrings. Like Blue, his younger identical twin brother, he appears as a Greaser whenever he takes the form of a mortal unicorn stallion, wearing a black leather jacket and styling his mane into a pompadour. However, he's an Alicorn god of Death, and being raised by Gavisus influenced him to become as cheerful and benevolent as his adoptive father. His entry also notes that despite his divinity, he generally prefers to look more casual so the deceased and dying could accept and trust him more.
  • A sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines features a character named Grayson "Gray" Bebop, who dresses the part and even talks using fifties slang.
  • In You Call That a Costume?, while lost downtown, Rarity and Applejack encounter a gang of these. Fortunately, they're saved by Twilight in her Midnight Sparkle form.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Greasers were of course regulars of exploitation films of the late 50s, particularly hot rod/car racing movies. They were quite different from the usual image of the greasers. Notable examples include Hot Rod Gang (who features legendary rockabilly singer and greaser idol Gene Vincent), Dragstrip Girl and Hot Rod Girl.
  • The Pharaohs from American Graffiti are a greaser gang.
  • Harvey Lembeck as Eric Von Zipper and his gang as a comedic take on Greasers in the Beach Party film series.
  • In The Cars That Ate Paris (1974), the leader of the hoons is a stereotypical Bodgie with a ducktail, sideburns and leather jacket. As a day job, he works for the Mad Scientist town doctor as The Igor.
  • The film adaptation of Christine follows the novel in having Arnie gradually turn into a retro '50s greaser (and develop a foul temper) after acquiring the titular 1958 Plymouth. Buddy's gang look more timeless here, though, and Buddy himself has fluffy '80s Hair.
  • Cry-Baby by John Waters is a parody/homage to the greaser movies of the 1950s. It basically tells the story of a gang of greasers whose leader (a young, greased-up Johnny Depp) falls in love with a girl from the rival subculture, the Squares (nice, by-the-book people). And everyone sings.
  • Johnny Callaway from the independent hot rod film Deuce Of Spades is the quintessential greaser.
  • Eddie and the Cruisers and its sequel had Michael Pare as the leader of them.
  • Grease and its sequel Grease 2 in respective late 1950s and early 1960s.
  • Mutt Williams from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • La Bamba had young Latino men like them in 1950s Los Angeles.
  • The Lords Of Flatbush had them in New York City's titular Brooklyn neighborhood.
  • The Loveless by Kathryn Bigelow is about a gang of motorcycle-riding greasers on their way to a stock car show, who stop by a small town and begin to raise hell. Noted to be Willem Dafoe's first leading role, and for featuring famed rockabilly singer Robert Gordon (fittingly as one of the greasers).
  • The Outsiders, being a very faithful adaptation of the book of the same name that was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, features Greasers as the main protagonists.
  • James Dean is famous for playing Greasers. Oddly enough, his role in Rebel Without a Cause, often considered the Trope Codifier of the portrayal of greasers in pop culture, was not a role as a greaser.
  • Rumble Fish, a sequel to The Outsiders, also deals with Greasers, but in a time when the subculture is dying out.
  • Secondhand Lions has the main characters get hassled by four greaser delinquents who don't realize they're messing with an old man who can kick their asses. One of them even later plays a Fire Toting Colonel Badass
  • Sometimes They Come Back was adapted from a Stephen King short story, about which see Literature below.
  • Touch of Evil features a gang of Mexican greasers who work for a crime boss named Grandi. They are genuinely frightening criminals who drug and kidnap an innocent woman at their boss's behest.
  • Marlon Brando plays a Greaser who's the leader of his own gang in The Wild One. Probably the most iconic film example out there, and a big influence on the Real Life versions.

    Literature 
  • The Outsiders is a novel, and later a movie, about Irish-American greasers in the Midwest during The '60s. The titular Outsiders are the protagonists.
  • Rumble Fish, written by the same author as The Outsiders, is about the death of the Greaser subculture in the very late 1960s.
  • Rally Round the Flag, Boys! has a clique of these at a suburban high school: the New Delinquents, led by Grady Metcalf.
  • Stephen King seems to have something of a bad memory of them, because many greasers appear as antagonists in his works and in their film adaptations, from bullies to downright psychos. Examples include:
    • Billy Nolan in Carrie, a delinquent who doesn't hesitate to help his Alpha Bitch girlfriend Chris to play a cruel prank on Carrie. He later tries to run her over when everything's gone to hell. The film adaptations tone down the specific greaser elements in favor of portraying him as more of a white-trash burnout, likely due to greasers being anachronistic by the late '70s or the 2000s. He still gets a Cool Car in each of the movies, though.
    • The gang of teenagers from "Sometimes They Come Back", a short story published in Night Shift. When Jim Norman was a kid, they harassed him and his brother and murdered the latter. They died a few years later, but it doesn't stop them from coming back as undead to harass the now-adult protagonist. He eventually decides to fight back by setting a demon on them.
    • Buddy Repperton and his gang in Christine, who bully Arnie and try to wreck Christine (and suffer for it). Arnie himself, as he gets more and more obsessed with his car, starts dressing and acting like a greaser.
    • Henry Bowers and his gang from It are way too young to ride anything other than a bicycle, but otherwise they fit the trope. Henry especially, with his love of Rock & Roll, his duck's ass haircut, his jean and leather jacket combo, and his switchblade. They all bully the other kids in Derry, but Henry in particular is a violent psychopath even before he meets Pennywise.
    • The Kid from The Stand. He basically answers to the description of Charles Starkweather with a personal and clothing style reminiscent of early Elvis, was a criminal before the plague hit, drives a retro car while drinking heavily, and is (again) a homicidal psychopath.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "Rosa", Krasko, a far-future time-travelling criminal up to villainy in 1950s USA, dresses and acts like a stereotypical period greaser. He also has a flashy car and impersonates a mechanic as part of his plot.
  • Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli of Happy Days fame. The trend may not have started with The Fonz, but he's the example that everyone remembers.
  • Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley is a Greaser and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Riverdale has the South Side Serpents, a mix of greasers and a modern biker gang.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Black Leather Jackets", the aliens Scott, Steve and Fred disguise themselves as this.
  • Twin Peaks, with its retro 50's aesthetic, has James Hurley. James, a lonesome biker outcast, has the looks with his slicked back hair, jeans and leather outfit, and he's often arrested throughout the series. In his broodiness and independence his personality he resembles, and may be a reference to James Dean's character in Rebel Without a Cause. Despite this, he actually gets into a lot less trouble than many other teens in the series (who sell drugs, murder people, lie to the police, etc).
  • An Unsolved Mysteries segment featured a gang of these that began terrorizing the small town of Rock Creek, Ohio, and eventually, in all likelihood, murdered police chief Robert Hamerick when unlike everyone else, including his predecessors, he refused to be intimidated by them.

    Music 
  • In the 1950s tribute band Sha Na Na, there are a few explicit Greasers: Bowzer, Donny, and Chico. A few others are more downplayed but still greasy. And Bowzer's Catchphrase, said at the end of every episode of their eponymous TV show: "Grease for Peace."
  • Rock & Roll, Rockabilly, and Doo-wop are the three genres most associated with Greasers, and in that order.
  • Greasers are a common sight in horror punk, perhaps because of the association of the genre with Doo-wop (and maybe the origins of the Misfits). Notable examples are Calabrese (three italian-american brothers with a greaser look), Mister Monster, or the explicitly named Hellgreaser.
  • Skid Row 18 And life has Ricky with his friend wearing greaser jackets, then Ricky murders his friend. 18 And life got remade though Kevin Michael Lee replaces Ricky.
  • Elvis Presley is a subversion; he wasn't really a delinquent himself, but his sense of style and his music were seminal influences on the Greaser subculture. Well, not his dress sense so much, at least not later in his career when he became increasingly flamboyant.

    Pinball 
  • The "Fonz" character from Eight Ball is meant to invoke this, being an unauthorized copy of The Fonz from Happy Days.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Andrew "Dice" Clay portrayed a Deconstructive Parody of this type of character with "The Diceman". Clay's character was meant to poke fun at how sexist, homophobic, and otherwise completely outdated such a character's way of thinking would be.

    Theatre 
  • Danny Zuko and the T-Birds from Grease. The title obviously comes from the greaser term.
  • West Side Story is about a conflict between Polish-American and Puerto Rican greasers.

    Video Games 
  • Mafia II: Greasers are the focus of the chapter "The Wild Ones", where a gang of them wisely decide to pick a fight with the mafia and torch Vito and Joe's truck carrying a shipment of bootleg cigarettes because they were selling the cigs on "their turf". The mobsters respond by killing their leader, trashing their bar, massacring dozens of them in a shootout, and stealing their hot rods to compensate for the ruined shipment.
  • The Tunnel Snakes from Fallout 3 are modeled after the Greaser lifestyle.
  • The Kings in Fallout: New Vegas are a hybrid of Greasers and Elvis impersonators. Of course, they're generally a good group of people led by a Reasonable Authority Figure, who is simply called "The King". There is also a raider gang actually called the Greasers inhabiting the North Vegas sewers.
  • The Atom Cats of Fallout 4 are modeled after 1950s hot rod greasers. Lacking actual hot rods to work with, they make do with Powered Armor. When they aren't kitting out their suits, they're holding poetry nights and offering their technical expertise out to the local farm in exchange for food.
  • Richard Miller, the protagonist of the first Time Crisis game, is not a greaser, but has a very Greaser-inspired look.
  • Greasers also appear in Bully by Rockstar Games. They logically shouldn't exist in a modern-day (mid-'00s) high school, but it's otherwise justified by the game's Retro Universe setting, which also features '80s-style preps and nerds and an Anachronism Stew of vehicles and technology.
  • The American port of River City Ransom changes the Japanese Delinquents into Greasers.
  • The Sindacco Family in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories are technically a Mafia family, but in the game evoke more of this trope, with their slicked-back 50's hairstyles, brown leather jackets, use of dated slang from the 50's and 60's (albeit cloaked in a thick Brooklyn accent), and of course, the fact that their leader is an Elvis Impersonator.
  • Eugene the koala from Animal Crossing has a greaser-inspired look.
  • Backyard Sports: Tony DelVecchio.
  • Teenaged Sims can dress like this in the The Sims 2 Nightlife Expansion Pack which also fittingly introduced personal cars to the game. The Freetime expansion pack adds a junk car that mechanically-inclined Sims can restore into a Cool Car, taking the Greaser archetype even further.
  • Tape from Paper Mario: The Origami King is likely meant to be a caricature of this, with bits of mobster thrown in. He treats his dispenser like a motorcycle and gets pissed when Mario wrecks it, allowing him to take damage, he uses the blade that would normally be on the end of a tape dispenser like brass knuckles, he rolls around and "sticks up" the battle rings, forcing Mario to move two of them at once, (complete with motorcycle noises!) speaks with a Joisey accent, and has a bit of tape serve as his '50s Hair.

    Webcomics 
  • Bad Machinery: Mildred and Sonny's Granpa Joe was a rocker in his youth.
    Granpa Joe: I was a TEDDY BOY! A rock 'n roller! ... I spent my days eating Italian rarebit, drinking coffee, and practicing my SNEER! And the evenings chasing girls and slashing cinema seats with a flick-knife.
  • Cronus Ampora from Homestuck dresses and acts like this, as part of a spectacularly awful attempt to look cool. He doesn't even understand why the requisite cigarettes need to be lit.
  • Rock and Riot: Follows two opposing teenage greaser gangs in the 1950's with an LGBTQ theme.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Rugrats episode "Little Dude", there's a character named Ramon, AKA "Rocko" who dresses the part and even rides a motorcycle. He's a subversion since he's rather calm, polite and likes to keep himself out of trouble. Tommy quickly takes a liking to him.
  • Ralph Bakshi's animated film ’'Hey Good Lookin''' has the main character Vinny and his gang, the Stompers.

    Real Life 
  • This was one of the larger and more well-known youth subcultures in the 1950's and the first half of 1960's, but with different regional spins on it.. Most greasers in the West Coast were Latino, focused around hot-rods, and would later give way to the cholos of the present day. Greasers in the Northeast were usually Italian-American (except in Massachusetts where they were more Irish-American due to a sizable amount of Irish immigrants in the state, especially in Boston) and focused more on fashion. The Midwest and The South had a predominantly Irish-American greaser scene that was more focused on motorcycles. Street gangs were common in all of the subcultures, although it also existed outside of gangs as a working-class subculture and a fashion statement. African-American youth didn't really get involved in the subculture that much. Ironic, as the main music behind the scene, Rock & Roll and Rockabilly, originated in Southern Black culture.
  • In the latter half of The '60s and the early years of The '70s, the greaser subculture died out in a steady and silent death, as many more rebellious youth gravitated towards subcultures such as Hippies, Mods, Glam Rockers, Punks, Skinheads, and the earliest trappings of the disco subculture. To put it simply, youth rebellion diversified so much to the point that the greaser subculture seemed obsolete and an anachronistic holdover from The '50s. However, as the real-life greaser delinquents died out, the media's portrayal of them and their image in pop culture truly began as nostalgia for The '50s began to take hold in The '70s, to the point of becoming an iconic 1950's stock character and the original Bad Boy of contemporary America.
  • Greaser Delinquents were sort of a spiritual ancestor to the Rocker, Biker, and Heavy Metal subculture, as they codified the leather jackets and denim jeans look that these cultures would have, as well as the gearhead tendencies of these cultures, and finally, the love of the harder, rebellious rock-oriented music.
  • It seems that most of the western countries had their version of greasers at one time or another: from the British rockers to the Swedish raggare, to the French blousons noirs and the Finnish rautalanka scene... There are also accounts of similar cultures in Italy, Germany and in Eastern Europe too. Every variant of the subculture has in common a fascination with America and rock'n'roll music (to a large extent), a idea of rebellion and a fondess for cars and/or motorcycles.
    • In Japan, the Bosozoku bikers/delinquents have a huge stylistic influence of the 50s greaser culture, as well. (The bosozoku are basically a combination of the aesthetics of Samurai, World War 2 soldiers and american greasers.) Unlike their western counterparts, Bosozoku continue to exist even today.


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