This entry will draw on the wider historical and theoretical ideas about the way in which the body operates as a key site of social calibration, where symbolic markers draw the boundaries of social hierarchies. The classed body is not only a telling sign of access to wealth and economic resources, but also importantly a key means of communicating social “value” and therefore also a site of struggle and contestation. The classed body is also always a racialized body and key intersections are threaded together by the varying intensities of “respectability politics”: the struggle for oppressed groups to claim some access to legitimate citizenship while being subject to the governing logics of propriety that function as structures of power and exclusion.

Beauty cultures are at the heart of these classed and racialized struggles and still figure in the ongoing battles of social regulation. In this entry, we move through the related formations of classificatory systems, taste cultures, forms of expertise, and questions of respectability politics through visiting sociological work on beauty work, ethnographies of working-class women, writing about popular culture and television, and the algorithmic implications of beauty apps. We end with the possibilities of transgression and the reframing of classed bodily “excesses” as politicized (if not political) acts of hyperbole in the media frame.