Before Ponyboy participates in the big rumble against the Socs, he puts extra grease in his hair and thinks to himself,
What kind of world is it where all I have to be proud of is a reputation for being a hood, and greasy hair? I don't want to be a hood, but even if I don't steal things and mug people and get boozed up, I'm marked lousy. Why should I be proud of it? Why should I even pretend to be proud of it? (Hinton, 113)
Ponyboy is lamenting the way that society in general judges lower-class individuals, who lack opportunities and present themselves in a certain way that is considered countercultural to the norm. Pony resents the fact that society unfairly judges and labels him as "lousy" without fully understanding his views, beliefs, personality, or situation. In the novel, Pony is depicted as an intelligent, sympathetic, and responsible young man, who is forced to deal with enormous social pressure and subjected to society's ills. Pony has no desire to be categorized as "hood" and desperately wishes to be judged on his merits and personality. Since Pony lacks material wealth, the only things that he can be proud of are his greasy hair and intimidating reputation, which are traits he does not necessarily desire or take pride in. Overall, Ponyboy is lamenting how society unfairly labels him as "lousy" based on his outward appearance and wishes to avoid being inaccurately categorized as a criminal "hood."