The “High-Brow/Low-Brow” Chart

by Joey deVilla on October 23, 2009

I don’t know when this chart classifying the spectrum of tastes from high-brow to low-brow was created, but the graphic style puts it sometime in the “Mad Men” era of the late 1950s and early 1960s. You can click the chart to see it at full size:

high-brow low-brow chartClick the chart to see it at full size.

I took a couple of columns from the chart and turned them into an enlarged version, shown below. The columns show “high-brow”, “upper middle-brow”, “lower middle-brow” and “low-brow” tastes in clothes, entertainment and drinks.

high-brow low-brow closeup

Some thoughts on these columns from the chart:

  • I’ve worked at a good number of place where coming to work in a t-shirt and jeans was perfectly acceptable. If you showed up in what the chart calls the “low-brow town outfit” you’d have been asked “Hey, why so dressed up?”
  • The present-day analogue of “Western movies” is most likely “action films”.
  • Beer can be pretty high-brow these days.

Someone needs to recompile this chart for the present day.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

FitDarcie October 23, 2009 at 9:26 am

Hahahaha! I love shit like this. I guess my beer-drinking puts me in the low-brow section.

AKMA October 23, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Looks like Ad Reinhardt‘s style — very cool.

AKMA October 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Whoops, the signature indicates it’s Tom Funk — should have looked more carefully.

Liz October 24, 2009 at 10:32 am

Anyone know what ‘The Game’ is?

Skaramuche October 25, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Option 1: it’s apparently some game they played that involved a man making an odd gesture. Charades maybe?

Option 2: Joey made this whole thing as a very elaborate delivery device to make us read the phrase “The Game” therefore causing us to lose it.

Derek January 31, 2011 at 5:01 pm

It was created by Russell Lynes for Life magazine in 1949 based on an article he had written for Harper’s a few months earlier. He was a noted art historian and wrote several books on American taste in art.

At this link you can read a 1983 interview with Lynes in which he cleverly updates the chart to 1980s standards of taste.

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