Societies always have hierarchies that rank individuals and groups based on a presumed shared platform of values. Often material possessions have supported these judgments. Taste as a demonstrable quality has also been used as a measure that transcends the simple value of financial cost; thus taste has become a vital ingredient in the aura of luxury and branded goods, certain entertainments, and styles of living. Increasingly, however, the exercise of taste has become more ambiguous in cultures where goods and services are in abundance. The use of other capitals, such as cultural, symbolic, and social capitals, has further shifted the scales of judgment. Where we eat, with whom, at what time of the day, and what we wear, at what cost and with obvious designer labels, how we travel to our vacation destinations, our exercise regimes and diet have become part of a currency through which we demonstrate a public identity that is increasingly ambiguous. The use of taste as a means to judge others and define ourselves may have increased in importance but, ironically, at the same time, the reliability of its indices (i.e., possessions, wealth, style) have weakened. As a result, we assume we know what it means to drink Peroni and wear a text tattoo, but the person looking at us probably does not.

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