Aesthetic labour and discrimination

Nickson, Dennis; Lashley, Conrad, ed. (2022) Aesthetic labour and discrimination. In: Prejudice and Discrimination in Hotels, Restaurants and Bars. Routledge, London, pp. 32-48. ISBN 9781003186403 (

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Aesthetic labour highlights how employees are hired because of the way they look and talk – and, once employed, how they are instructed on body language, appearance standards, dress codes, and even speech to produce a desired style of service intended to create an organizational brand and market differentiation. Aesthetic labour organizations look to create ‘ideal’ workers through first recruiting potential employees who fit their brand image and then subsequently further moulding employees, through elements such as appearance standards and dress codes. First identified in the hospitality and retail industries it has expanded into a range of other service sector settings, such as hairdressing, recruitment consulting, and the fitness industry, though the focus of this chapter is the hospitality and retail industries. This chapter considers the way, with aesthetic labour, organizations can signal who is likely to fit the brand image and the consequences of this about inclusion and exclusion based on personal characteristics.