links for 2010-08-03
The most interesting part of the Berger and Ward article is about subtle signals as a means of discouraging "poaching" of status signals. It's harder to copy something you aren't aware of. If you don't recognize the subtle signals, you aren't part of the "in" group worth worrying about. Learning to discern the subtleties is a form of cultural capital, like art appreciation. (They compare this to gay men's styles in the 70s and 80s, intended to convey the wearer's sexual orientation only to insiders and not to possibly hostile outsiders.) We've long known that status symbols lose their status when adopted by hoi polloi; now we see a tactic to prevent it.
It's also acceptable for very high status people to use items that look superficially like cheap ones, because they are more secure in their status than the middle class. A British friend once told me he could always tell old money because no one else would ever be seen in such ratty old tweeds (once, of course, bespoke tailored).
"It's better to walk the dog on a leash than let it escape through an unseen hole in the back fence."