Status symbol

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Crown, scepter and ermine fur as status symbols of a ruler, in hand as a warning the crown of thorns , the attribute of Jesus Christ
Mohawk hairstyle as a status symbol of a group (punks)

A status symbol or status object is an object that expresses or is intended to express the social status or social status of its owner or wearer. The symbolism originated in the illiterate time, when pictograms or hierograms were used to draw attention to a status bearer. Conversely, a status symbol is an indicator of a person's social status. It can be about the status with regard to social values ( income , reputation , education , awareness, etc.) as well as belonging to a social group.

A status symbol can, for example, be a title, a badge, an asset or a brand , but also a behavior or partnership with influential, respected or powerful people, etc. If the brand of a product serves as a status symbol, the product is usually not brand-transparent , i.e. the The brand is clearly visible on the product so that the status symbol can be recognized.

In its original meaning, a status symbol can only be acquired if its owner already has the corresponding status, e.g. B. a monarch . A doctorate is also a status symbol of an academic career or the recognizable membership in an exclusive golf club , which can only be acquired through advocacy.

In addition, objects also become status symbols (for example crown , imperial orb , scepter or ermine fur ), the possession of which has the status as a prerequisite and which indicate that the person concerned has the symbolized status. For the viewer, objects that were not bought and / or worn by the wearer with this intention can also become an indicator of the status of a person.

Erroneous examples of status symbols: Anyone who drives an expensive car is very likely to want to show that they have enough income and / or assets to be able to afford it, or at least to be sufficiently creditworthy. Anyone who has a large number of scientific books is likely to be well read and more educated. Anyone who wears a style of clothing that is common in a certain milieu is very likely to belong to this milieu.

Colloquially, "status symbol" is almost synonymous but incorrectly used with " prestige object ". However, these are objects of the material culture of a modern society that express a high social reputation within the society or reference group, which is associated with (supposedly or actually) high regard in the reference group. Nevertheless, there are also symbols for a low social status (example: coarse manners as an indicator of low education.) And there are symbols for the status of belonging to a certain group that cannot be declared as "above" or "below" ( example mohawk as an indicator of belonging to the punk - scene ). Status symbols can be used to give yourself the appearance of a higher or lower status.


  • Vance Oakley Packard: The status seekers: an exploration of class behavior in America. Harmondsworth, Pelican books, 1963.
  • Samuel I Hayakawa: Symbol, status, and personality . New York, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1963.
  • Pierre Bourdieu: Distinction: a social critique of the judgment of taste. London / New York, Routledge, 1984.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: status symbol  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations