What makes something "low" or "high class?"

I read the book “Class” by Paul Fussell.

A question. Supposing you try to invite someone to a bar; they say, no that place is ‘low class’. What exactly makes it ‘low class’? Or other things, ‘high class’? Of course, I understand the concept of a bar with loud rock music being piped in through old speakers being low class, and a wine bar with soft jazz or classical music being more high class, but I can’t quite explain what makes it so. What makes rock music lower class?

Is it low class because low class people go there, or is it low class people go there because it is low class?

Also, are there any blogs where they spot out things such as how someone is dressed, and then analyze them based on class?

First, you should realize Fussell has insisted the book was meant to be at least semi-satirical and not to be taken very seriously.

But don’t you think the book answers your questions pretty well? I seem to recall Fussell explains at length the difference between a high class and low class drink. (Scotch in glass tumblers with sail boats, I believe). I swear he even had illustrations of low class vs. high class attire.

I don`t know of any blogs continuing his work.

It has more to do with the type of clientele that the establishment (or product, or service) attracts than anything.

Cost/wealth. The more expensive something is, the more money you need to shop there. A dive is a dive because the drinks are cheap. A high-class bar charges $20 for a drink.

Prices obviously correlate positively with perceived classiness of things, but I don’t think that is the defining factor. It’s pretty low-class to trick out the rims on your car, wear gaudy jewelery (“bling”) in the shape of dollar signs, etc. even though it’s expensive to do so. Meanwhile, cheap things like the admission price of an art museum can be perceived as higher-class. I stand by my assertion that it’s the social standing of the people who participate that really make or break the “classiness” aspect of something.

I have a professor from my department (I’m doing graduate studies in music) who argues that the musical distinctions like you describe are racially charged in nature.

When describing music or other arts, I would be more inclined to use terms “High brow” and “Low brow,” personally. These terms, he argued to me, were derived from a belief by whites in the 19th century that a high brow was a sign of intelligence, and a low, sloping brow denoted someone who was unsophisticated and savage. Would you care to guess which feature goes with which race?

I’m not saying I agree with the argument (it may be true, for all I know), and I certainly wouldn’t say that anyone who uses high and low brow in common parlance is a racist, it’s interesting food for thought.

Well, for things like bars and other public, social gathering spots, it depends on the clientele. Personally, I don’t pay attention to things like price*. If a place is full of “townies” then it’s definitely lower class. Of course, that depends on what you consider is a “townie.” There are average, run-of-the-mill joints that attract all classes. And then there are places that attract the higher-end people. So for examples in my area, there’s “Gary’s High Class Dive” that’s definitely townie, then BW3’s that’s mixed, then the wine-tasting place that pretends to be high-class but serves me anyway. :wink:

  • I say that price isn’t a discriminating factor because in my income class, there’s really no difference between a $2.00 beer and a $4.00 beer.

I usually found if a place has a name that includes the words “class”, “fancy”, “deluxe”, or any variants, it’s usually not (e.g. any hair salon named “A Touch of Class”, a bar not far from me named “Class Act Lounge”).

First of all, soft jazz strikes me as extremely middle class. It’s essentially music designed not to offend anyone, which is one of the core concerns of the middle class.
Rock music is deemed lower because of the low associations of the guitar - traditionally played by gypsies, poor blues musicians, slumming folk musicians like Woody Guthrie, et al, combined with the fact that it’s a relatively easy instrument for the beginner to pick up… expensive and prolonged lessons are not really necessary the way they would be with a piano or violin, which consequently would be considered higher class instruments. The fact that rock instrumention is electric brings it down in class a bit more, based on the principle that old-fashioned or archaic instruments are higher in class and technology is essentially non-upper class. This should be simple to grasp - anything old, be it a house, clothes, a boat, a school, or whatever - is classier than the brand-new version of that thing.

is it low class because low class people go there, or is it low class people go there because it is low class?

These two propostions strike me as inseparable. Both are probably valid & in effect at the same time.

If I like it, its high class. If I don’t, its low class. Everybody can say that. Nobody is correct.

It’s becoming more clear that there isn’t really a GQ answer to this, so I’m shuffling it off to IMHO.

Well, the musical structure of most rock songs is extremely simple and repetitive (based on this, I suppose one could argue that prog rock is “classier” than mainstream rock I guess). The lyrics are usually about low brow topics like sex, drugs, or partying.
Classical music of course is a lot more complex and intricate than most modern pop/rock stuff is. You also have to be somewhat intelligent and educated to have appreciation and knowledge of their long-dead composers nowadays.
Now I am myself a low class rock fan, so I am no expert, but I am pretty sure that Beethoven and Mozart did not write a lot of songs about how much they love cocaine or destroying hotel rooms during their parties with hot chicks.

Just the other day, I overheard someone equate “shiny” suits with “low class”. I have no idea what he meant by shiny–maybe polyester rather than natural fiber? I dunno, but I suspect it has something to do with price. The thing was, he was dressed in clothing that I could easily see someone else judging as “low class”. An untucked loose-fitting, short-sleeved button down over a gray t-shirt, khaki slacks, and sneakers. I didn’t think the outfit was bad (more like wannabe cool suburban wear), but it didn’t signal, “Hey, this guy is a fashion plate!” So I don’t know why the line is so clear for some, and blurry for others (like me).

Well, I do know one thing. Golden Corral is “low class”. Everything else is “high class.” :slight_smile:

But Beethoven had complicated familial issues that are roughly analogous to today’s “low class” accidental families and Mozart did a lot of his time period’s equivalent to cocaine and destroying hotel rooms during his parties with hot chicks.

However, Mozart did write Leck mich im Arsch.

One thing I’ll never forget from a marketing class I took in college was that that most very high-end furniture usually has a fairly low shine or gloss, while cheap furniture marketed for the proles tends to be very shiny. Think about it: go to a place like Furniture Discount Factory Warehouse Clearance Liquidation Outlet Superstore, and there’s going to be a lot of heavily lacquered and chromed pieces. Check out a high-end furniture retailer, or a custom furniture manufacturer, and low gloss is more the norm.

Why? I was told that poor people like shiny furniture because they think it’s what wealthy people have, while affluent people prefer less glossy furniture because their tastes tend to be more restrained and low-key. Of course, there’s exceptions, as anyone who has ever been to New Jersey knows.

As far as shiny suits goes, an old-school men’s shop in town, where most of the clientele is very old money, tends to have more conservative, timeless clothing. No shiny Italian suits to be found; it’s all very high-end, extremely expensive made-in-the-USA or made-in-the-UK threads.

Wool suits tend to get shiny as they get older and worn. And of course ONLY wool suits (in various weights) are classy. As for other flavors of shiny, think of Elvis in his gold lame suits…that’s the very definition of tacky. Unless it’s a picture of Elvis in such a suit painted on black velvet.

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Especially during one of their annual Going-Out-of-Business-Forever sales! :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, here are some things that make a bar low class:
Cheap alchohol (including specials)
Dirty or dank
A Golden T or Big Buck Hunter arcade game in the corner
No cover or dress code
Lax policies on drunkenness

And here are some things that make a bar high class:
Wine, scotch or obscure microbrew beers
Clean, contemporary or classic decor
Strict dress code or cover charge
Light jazz or ambient electronic music playing over the PA
Strict behavior policies
Near a college or business district

These things do not automatically make a bar high or low class. However, the low class items will tend to attract people who don’t make much money and are typically going out to get drunk, hit on skanky girls and otherwise get into trouble.

The higher class items will tend to attract people who have money or are sophisticated about what they drink. These are people who want to enjoy a quiet drink, associate with their peers and for the most part not be bothered.

Class is closely linked to quality, success and sophistication and how one wants to be perceived. Certain aspects of class are objectively measurable. An Ivy League or other top education. Professional or financial success. Success in literature or the arts. These people tend to be in the upper class (of people who were not simply born into wealth).

These people typically enjoy an higher degree of wealth which should allow them to be more descerning in what they buy and the clothes they wear.

The people below them in the middle classes tend to seek to elevate their stature by adopting the perceived traits of the upper classes. They typically don’t have the wealth of the uppers so that will often buy garish cheap knock offs. For example, a McMansion. Cheaply made, oversized homes designed to make the upper middle class occupant appear wealthier than his neighbors.

Silk suits aren’t classy?