How is status conveyed and interpreted? One sociologist went undercover to study status on the front lines, New York City bouncers:
[Lauren Rivera] found that bouncers ran through a hierarchical list of qualities to determine in seconds who would enhance the image of the club and encourage high spending. Social networks mattered more than social class, or anything else for that matter. Celebrities and other recognized elites slipped through the door. And people related to or befriended by this “in crowd” often made the cut, too. …. “New Faces,” as the bouncers called unrecognized club-goers, were selected on the basis of gender, dress, race, and nationality. Sometimes the final call boiled down to details as minor as the type of watch that adorned a man’s wrist.
It comes down to this:
Social network mattered most, gender followed. For example, a young woman in jeans stood a higher chance of entrance than a well-dressed man. And an elegantly dressed black man stood little chance of getting in unless he knew someone special.
What won’t work:
More interesting is Rivera’s report that bouncers look down on bribes, suggesting that they are invested in their ability to accurately assess something more nebulous than raw wealth — that they are proud of being able to distinguish souls of gold from souls of bronze.
Like other undercover researchers, Rivera took a position as a “coat-check girl” and “cigarette girl” to sort the status sorters.