A place downtown where the freaks all come around

Kellogg Insight has a fantastic article on how nightclub bouncers make instant status judgements to decide whether to let people into exclusive clubs.

It’s a curious insight into perception of social status that both relies on some social stereotypes and turns others completely on their head.

The article is based on the work of sociologist Lauren Rivera who got a job as a “coat-check girl” in a high class club to observe the selection process in action before revealing her true intentions and interviewing the doormen to work out how they made status judgements of hopeful clubbers.

Through conversations and observations, she 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.

Wealth is considered to be one of the strongest indicators of status, yet bouncers frowned upon bribes even though bribes are obvious displays of money. “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.

As we’ve discussed before, Rivera is not the first sociologist to immerse herself in the swing of urban night life for her work.

Sociologist Simon Winlow actually got a job as a bouncer to get, er, hands on experience of the role of violence in the night time economy.

Link to Kellog Insight on status judgements in night clubs.
Link to previous Mind Hacks post on work of Simon Winlow.

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