Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 57–72 | Cite as

Cracking the Code: Race, Class, and Access to Nightclubs in Urban America

  • Reuben A. Buford May
  • Kenneth Sean Chaplin


Using ethnographic data collected in the downtown nightlife of Athens, Georgia, we explore black males’ responses to being rejected from nightclubs via dress code enforcement in predominately white settings. We contrast these responses to the general experiences of other black males who gained access. Although race is a factor in the enforcement of dress codes, we find a fluid relationship between race, class, and taste that influences black males’ responses and experiences. We illustrate how the nuanced reality of lived racial and class experiences for many young black males problematize the narrow interpretation of a black cultural essence.


Dress codes Race Class 



We would like to thank the participants in the Race and Ethnicity Workshop at Texas A&M University, Department of Sociology, Mary Pattillo, and anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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