Status Symbol

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A status symbol is a perceived visible, external denotation of one’s social position and perceived indicator of economic or social status. Many luxury goods are often considered status symbols. Status symbol is also a sociological term – as part of social and sociological symbolic interactionism – relating to how individuals and groups interact and interpret various cultural symbols. What is considered a status symbol will differ between countries and states, based on the states of their economic and technological development, and common status symbols will change over time. For example, before the invention of the printing press, having a large collection of books was considered a status symbol. After the advent of the printing press, having books was more common among average citizens, and so the possession of books was less of a status symbol. In the past, pearls and jade were major status symbols. Another common status symbol of the past which is still somewhat present today is heraldry, or one’s family name.

Status symbols also indicate the cultural values of a society. For example, in a commercial society, having money or wealth and things that can be bought by wealth, such as cars, houses, or fine clothing, are considered status symbols. In a society that values honor or bravery, a battle scar would be more of a status symbol. The condition of one’s body can be a status symbol. In times past, when workers did physical labor outdoors under the sun and often had little food, being pale and fat was a status symbol, indicating wealth and prosperity (through having enough food and not having to do manual labor). Now that workers usually do less-physical work indoors and find little time for exercise, being tanned and thin is often a status symbol in many cultures. In the 1990s, foreign cigarettes in China, where a pack of Marlboro can cost one day’s salary for some workers, were seen as a status symbol. Cellphone usage in Turkey had been considered a status symbol in early 1990s.

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