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“They’ll Go with the Lighter”: Tri-racial Aesthetic Labor in Clothing Retail

“They’ll Go with the Lighter”: Tri-racial Aesthetic Labor in Clothing Retail The clothing retail industry demands the performance of aesthetic labor, whereby visible employees embody a store’s desired “look.” Scholars currently understand this labor process as focused on extracting gender, sexual, and class dimensions of worker appearances to promote the company brand. Drawing on 55 interviews with U.S. clothing retail workers, the author argues that racial dynamics of this job create a tri-racial aesthetic labor process that promotes White-dominant beauty standards and exoticizes certain phenotypical forms of racial difference. Clothing retail managers often select and reward White workers, while using lighter-skinned and sometimes racially ambiguous looking Asian, Black, Hispanic, and multiracial workers to carefully diversify brand representations. Darker-skinned Black women appear to experience exclusion, devaluation, and alienation in their performance of aesthetic labor. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Sociology of Race and Ethnicity SAGE

“They’ll Go with the Lighter”: Tri-racial Aesthetic Labor in Clothing Retail

Sociology of Race and Ethnicity , Volume 4 (1): 14 – Jan 1, 2018

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Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© American Sociological Association 2017
ISSN
2332-6492
eISSN
2332-6506
DOI
10.1177/2332649217710662
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The clothing retail industry demands the performance of aesthetic labor, whereby visible employees embody a store’s desired “look.” Scholars currently understand this labor process as focused on extracting gender, sexual, and class dimensions of worker appearances to promote the company brand. Drawing on 55 interviews with U.S. clothing retail workers, the author argues that racial dynamics of this job create a tri-racial aesthetic labor process that promotes White-dominant beauty standards and exoticizes certain phenotypical forms of racial difference. Clothing retail managers often select and reward White workers, while using lighter-skinned and sometimes racially ambiguous looking Asian, Black, Hispanic, and multiracial workers to carefully diversify brand representations. Darker-skinned Black women appear to experience exclusion, devaluation, and alienation in their performance of aesthetic labor.

Journal

Sociology of Race and EthnicitySAGE

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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