In S. E. Hinton’s young adult novel The Outsiders, the narrator is fourteen-year-old Ponyboy. He, his brothers, and their friends are members of a gang called the greasers. The greasers are generally at odds with the more privileged “west-side rich kids,” who are called the Socs. (Socs is short for Socials.) Ponyboy and the other greasers are “outsiders” in their hometown because of their relatively low socioeconomic status.
The greasers also look different from the Socs. greasers can often be untidy and do not have the same kind of clothes, as their budgets are lower. Some of the difference in appearance is also probably attributable to the greasers’ desire to rebel against what the Socs and other more privileged people deem to be the norm. In chapter 1, Ponyboy describes himself:
My hair is longer than a lot of boys wear theirs, squared off in back and long at the front and sides, but I am a greaser and most of my neighborhood rarely bothers to get a haircut.
Another sign of their rebellious streak is that greasers often violate the law. Ponyboy seems to understand that when greasers break the rules, they are viewed as hoodlums, whereas there is more leeway given to the wealthier Socs. Ponyboy understands the difference between his group and the Socs. He writes:
We're poorer than the Socs and the middle class. I reckon we're wilder, too…Greasers are almost like hoods; we steal things and drive old souped-up cars and hold up gas stations and have a gang fight once in a while…I only mean that most greasers do things like that, just like we wear our hair long and dress in blue jeans and T-shirts, or leave our shirttails out and wear leather jackets and tennis shoes or boots. I'm not saying that either Socs or greasers are better; that's just the way things are.
Ponyboy wishes that things could be different. When he spends time with Cherry, a girl from the more elite Socs background, he notes that there are similarities between the two groups—including that they watch the same sun and they share the same earth.