Cottom’s article, “The Logic of Stupid Poor People,” starts with a tweet by Errol Louis that says:
Errol’s tweet suggests that he does not understand why poor people feel the need to buy objects of “status” such as accessories, clothing, and cars. Why aren’t these people spending money on more important things in order to break out of their class? What many in this situation do not understand is that less fortunate people buy these expensive items to do just that—to break out of their class stereotype.
Not only are people in lower classes judged on the brands they do or don’t have, but they are also judged on their inability to receive respect. For example, Cottom tells her readers that “we could, as my grandfather would say, talk like white folks. We loaned that privilege out to folks a lot.” This is important to note because her family was able to effectively communicate with various classes and received respect for it. Cottom recalls a time where her mother helped a neighbor at the social service agency who was denied benefits for her granddaughter she was raising. She goes on to say that “it took half a day but something about my mother’s performance of respectable black person — her Queen’s English, her Mahogany outfit, her straight bob and pearl earrings — got done what the elderly lady next door had not been able to get done in over a year.” Both communication and appearance are key: they act as powerful symbols of status that have the potential to break a person out of a “lower class.”
Also, Cottom brings up the topic of job interviews. An interviewer is able to form an opinion on an interviewee solely on their outward appearance. This doesn’t seem fair considering people—poor or rich—are expected to splurge on an expensive interview outfit. In a way, it’s almost frowned upon to purchase an outfit at a discount store; brand names have the connotation of power, money, and status. Moreover, in some cases, people get hired because they bought an expensive outfit. A blog comment from Kristen Duvall says, “I’m not educated and managed to land a great job few years ago. I wore a Calvin Klein suit, had a French manicure (my first and only one) and I landed the job. Because of how I’ve been treated prior to dressing that way, I know the name brand helped me. I’ve had bosses tell me to dress for the job I want even if I can’t afford it. So much of this is true and until someone has been there, they won’t understand how hard it is to go from rags to riches. I’ve shmoozed and ended up getting a lot things I wouldn’t have gotten if I weren’t a pretty white girl wearing a nice outfit. I can tell countless stories of this being the case. I had to pretend I wasn’t poor to get these opportunities and to do that, I had to dress the part.”
It was really interesting to see what comments people added to Cottom’s post. Especially because a majority of the people attest to the fact that their brand name attire sealed the deal in an interview.