A survey of US college students asked them to reach to a description of a professor teaching at a top tier school. For some students we described the 45 year-old professor as wearing a t-shirt and having a beard. For others, we described him as clean-shaven and wearing a tie. The students rated the professor in a t-shirt as having higher status. The perception that an individual is consciously choosing not to conform is critical.
To signal status, deviations from the norm must demonstrate one’s autonomy to behave consistently with one’s own inclinations and to pay for the cost of nonconformity.