Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Pay attention, slobs! A 1949 issue of Life magazine is here to see if your tastes are highbrow or lowbrow

Illustration for article titled Pay attention, slobs! A 1949 issue of iLife/i magazine is here to see if your tastes are highbrow or lowbrow
Photo: PA Images (Getty Images)

If you, like everybody, spend hours laying awake at night fretting over what your favorite drinks or taste in furniture inadvertently say about your class status, worry no longer: A 1949 issue of Life magazine has returned to assure you that anyone can become a real sophisticate by eating salad out of unwashed bowls and that even the lowliest slob can elevate themselves by throwing their balsam-stuffed pillows straight in the trash.

This valuable information comes courtesy of an archival image posted by the University Of Akron’s Drs. Nicholas And Dorothy Cummings Center For The History Of Psychology Twitter account. Thanks to the CCHP’s efforts, we now have a handy guide to reference whenever worries crop up about how our “everyday tastes” read to others.


The chart, which ranks preferences from lowbrow to highbrow (alongside an, um, phrenology-style cranium illustration), provides an easy visual reference sure to come in handy whenever you accidentally time-warp decades into the past. For example, if you’re inclined to tuck into a bowl of coleslaw while drinking a beer, reading comic books, and enjoying some jukebox tunes, well, we regret to inform you you’re about as lowbrow as they come. If, on the other hand, your wardrobe is filled with fuzzy Harris tweed suits, you hate wearing hats, and your idea of a good time is reading “’little magazines,’ criticism of criticism” and sipping on “a glass of ‘adequate little’ red wine,” your tastes are very highbrow.

There are all sorts of other interesting things to note here. Consider whether your advocacy of parent-teacher association meetings over art-based causes is sending the blue bloods the wrong message. Or, perhaps, if swapping out your “his and hers towels” for a nice “silver cigaret box with wedding ushers’ signatures” or a “decanter and ash tray from chemical supply company” might get you that long-awaited invitation to the yacht club. As for those “unwashed salad bowls,” it turns out, as writer Robyn Pennacchia tweeted, the wealthiest among us understand it’s “fancy not to wash” their dishes. (Full disclosure: Pennacchia has written for The A.V. Club. - Ed.)

Print out this image and keep it handy at all times. After all, the upper classes of 1940s America—long applauded for their open-mindedness and excellent opinions—are obviously the best possible resource for how to live your life.


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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.

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