Employee experience of aesthetic labour in retail and hospitality

C. Warhurst, D.P. Nickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

199 Citations (Scopus)


Interactive service job growth in the UK is significant.Analysis of labour within these services has tended to focus on employee attitudes, framed through emotional labour. Such analysis is not incorrect, just partial. Some employers also demand aesthetic labour, or employees with particular embodied capacities and attributes that appeal to the senses of customers. Reporting survey and focus group data, this article explores aesthetic labour as it is experienced by interactive service employees in the retail and hospitality industries. Issues examined are recruitment and selection; image and appearance; uniforms and dress codes; skills and training. By extending awareness of aesthetic labour so that both employee attitude and appearance are empirically and conceptually revealed, the article extends understanding of the job demands made of employees in interactive services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-120
Number of pages17
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


  • aesthetic labour
  • appearance
  • attitudes
  • emotional labour
  • hospitality
  • retail
  • students


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