Snobbery Is As Snobbery Does

Kevin Godbee

Snobs, snobs, and more snobs are everywhere … and Reverse-Snobs too! … even in the small, little, teeny-tiny pipes and tobaccos community! It’s hard to decide which are more annoying. I have disdain for both, but I am leaning towards Reverse-Snobs being slightly more annoying. But wait. That’s not really correct. They are both equally obnoxious. For a moment, I was thinking of some of my friends and acquaintances that have some high-end pipes, and how cool these guys are … but they are not snobs. Hence the title of this article; paraphrased from the line in the movie, Forest Gump; "Stupid is as stupid does." "Gump’s ‘Stupid is as stupid does’ is a rejoinder, and a rather intelligent one. It means that calling a person stupid doesn’t make him stupid, that we know a person by his actions.

So, "Snobbery Is As Snobbery Does" means that just because a person may own several pipes that he paid several hundred dollars for, doesn’t automatically make him a snob. However, if you disagree with that statement, then you may be a Reverse-Snob. A Pipe Snob would be a person that only smokes expensive pipes, doesn’t believe that a modestly-priced pipe can deliver a good smoke, and looks down on anyone that smokes low-end, mass-market pipes, like Dr. Grabow, or Corn Cob pipes. That’s a general example, and many others could be given at different levels, and with varying specificities. If you only own and smoke high-end pipes, that doesn’t mean you are a Pipe Snob. However, if this is coupled with some type of superiority-complex, then you may be a snob.

Just because a pipe is more expensive, of a certain origin, specific grain pattern, individual brand, etc., doesn’t guarantee it will have any measurable supremacy in delivering a better smoking experience. My general, simple definition of a good smoking experience, all things being equal, is one where the pipe is not a chore to smoke – it’s easily lit, doesn’t require constant re-lights, smokes cool and dry, and delivers a pleasant flavor. Flavor is the number one reason, by far, that I smoke pipes. I’m being general and simple here, because several entire separate articles could branch out about different types of pipes, pipe construction, engineering, and smoking experiences.

I explained the snobbery issue to Patricia, my oh-so-patient girlfriend, with wine as an example, since we both enjoy drinking it together and had a perfect example experience recently. I don’t consider myself a wine expert. (I am a connoisseur in training, but definitely not a snob.) I’m a student, learning more about wine and wine-making on an occasional basis because it holds an interest for me, not because I need to impress anyone. A former girlfriend of mine wouldn’t drink a bottle of wine if it was priced under $30. She was (and probably still is) a Wine Snob. I didn’t bring this part up to Patricia as it would be poor form talking about the ex to the current. So, the other day, Patricia and I drank two bottles of a California Cabernet Sauvignon that was amazing. To me, it tasted like vanilla ice cream with a caramel topping. The bottle retailed for $10. The previous night, we had a bottle that was pretty good, but nowhere near as fabulous as this. Its’ list price was $28. The Point: Price alone means nothing.

The same holds true in the cigar world. You can always tell a novice, poseur, wannabe when he walks into the cigar shop asserting that he only smokes Cuban cigars, or someone that only smokes $15, $20, $25 cigars and up. I’ve smoked some amazing $20 – $25 cigars. I’ve also smoked some $7 – $8 cigars that were just as good. I’ve smoked some $5 cigars that were better than other $10 cigars, and so on.

That said, there are, without a doubt, many of the finer things in life that cost more than their alternatives, and deliver an extraordinary experience to a consumer that can tell, and appreciate the difference. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

Some people think I have a lot of pipes, and that they are all expensive high-end pieces. At the recent Kansas City Pipe Show, I was at a table with three other gentlemen and polled them on how many pipes they own. The answers, in descending order, were; 500, 300, and 250. Personally, I have about 70 pipes, so not really a lot compared to my table-mates. In the below photo, I grabbed some random pipes and tobaccos from my collection. We have a selection showing different ends of the spectrum. Pipe-wise there is an Ardor and four Dunhills representing the higher-end $300 – $400 each. There is a Lucienne that was purchased new for $9.98, along with two Dr. Grabows. We have mass-market "drug store" tobaccos along side of boutique specialty blends.

I do smoke the high-end pipes and specialty-boutique tobaccos more often, but I do not look down on anyone for the type of pipe or tobacco they smoke, and think it is wrong to do so. I also think it is just as bad to be a Reverse-Snob. The general definition of a reverse snob is: a person overly proud of being one of, or sympathetic to the common people, and who denigrates or shuns those of superior ability, education, social standing, etc. Some guys exclusively smoke mass-produced, machine made pipes, like Dr. Grabows, or corn cob pipes. For me personally, to smoke those type of pipes exclusively would be narrowing my field of enjoyment too much. However, I have no criticism for someone that does. My attitude is; "If you’re enjoying it, then you’re doing it right."

What really gets me though, is when the guys that only smoke very low-priced pipes disparage anyone that smokes what they deem to be too high-priced. I’m not sure what’s exactly at play here, but for some I think there may be a little bit of jealousy going on. I think some of them have the metaphorical chip on their shoulder. And there could be an inferiority complex at work as well. Perhaps the snobs have a superiority complex and the reverse-snobs have an inferiority complex, and the two are not much different really.

Either way, they are all immature, illogical and rude to a certain extent.

For an entertaining read, check this link on Reverse Snobbery.


Kevin Godbee is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of Pipes Magazine. Kevin started smoking pipes and cigars in 1998 and started an online cigar magazine & community site in 2005. (The site was acquired in 2008 and no longer exists.) He launched in 2009, and in less than three years the site has become the largest trafficked pipe smoking related site, and the #1 Source for Pipes and Pipe Tobacco Information.

In the beginning of his career, Kevin worked in the hobby and specialty toy business for 16 years in sales, marketing, advertising and product development for three different manufacturers, and with his own company.

Over the last 10 years working in the online business, he has become an expert in Internet Marketing and SEO. Kevin is a Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT) through Tobacconist University, a member of Cigar Rights of America and is a "Media Member" of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association. In his spare time he sings, plays guitar, cooks, and enjoys all the wonderful places to go and things to do in beautiful downtown St. Petersburg, Florida where he lives in his penthouse bachelor pad. Kevin has been smoking pipes and cigars for 14 years.


37 Responses

  • Nice read. I’ve spent a little, and a lot on pipes over the years. Same holds true with tobacco. Cost and value are not the same. I get my best value out of my under 10 dollar cob that I’ve smoked daily for many years. Some folks look at it and think my gawd man……yep.

  • Some of my favorte pipes were made by a neihborhood craftsman who tagged his pipes; DON-LOU. Great smokers and sold at terrific prices. I’m also very partial to always excllent smokers from Blatter Pipes!

  • Well said!
    The same thing is true in other hobbies, guns comes immediately to mind. Price often has little to do with shooting accuracy or reliability. But some people enjoy firearms as works of art, as well, and are willing to pay up for things that add beauty or for guns which involved a lot of hand-fitting by an artisan. Pipes are probably the same way. I’m not the type (yet, anyway) to spend $400 on a pipe, but I have spent over two grand on handguns several times! So I get the attraction.

  • I hope I’m no pipe snob.
    I know I’m no fan of some maker’s pipes, then again I’m a fan of others.
    However; I’ll never criticize anyone for their preferences, or their choices.
    After all, my collection goes from Cobs to Cavicchis.
    And, as for tobacco… I enjoy codger blends, as well as boutiques.
    Like everyone else, I have my likes, and dislikes.
    Great read Kevin.

  • I have my eye on a Dr Bob that goes for around $400. It’s beautiful, and I wonder if I’ll get $400 worth of pleasure out of it. I have Charatans, Dunhills, Connoisseurs, a Preben Holm, some GBDs, all told around 70 pipes, and I have 3 Missouri Meerschaums that, if the truth be known, give me as fine a smoke as I get in any briar. If you want to tell me that my palate is dead, you may be right. Yet I smoke my pipe for my pleasure alone. I couldn’t make it to the Chicago show this year, and my wife said that for the airfare, I could buy a really fine pipe, perhaps even one that I might have bought at the show. Maybe I will–and that Dr. Bob sits waiting. Of course, there are also some Cavicchis that are waiting to be purchased, maybe a Castello. then there’s also, ….help!

  • I think it’s also important to understand that, simply expressing a strong personal like or dislike for a product is not, in and of itself, snobbery. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many times where someone makes a well-argued pitch for or against a way of doing something, the whole time being quite respectful of the opposing viewpoint and the trolls simply can’t wait to come out of the woodwork, mocking and pointing and crying, “Snob, snob!!! Come quick and see the snob!”

  • Nice piece Kevin. I’m really tired of the more money than brains comment. Seems that’s the battle cry of the reverse snob these days. Great cartoon though!

  • Price is all relative to the buyer. I really can’t spend hundreds on any one pipe. I don’t care who made it. It’s just wood with a plastic stem. Get real. My pipes are all bought new in the range of $38.00 to $94.00 from the advertisers of this magazine. They smoke just fine. I’m the only one that knows there true value.
    I never ever cared what someone else was smoking. That’s his enjoyment. He paid what ever, I don’t care. It was his money. I have about 60 pipes all under $100.00 new. They smoke beautifully. My Peterson’s and Nording’s are my favorite smokers. They are what I could afford. I’m surly not embarrassed showing them, smoking them, it’s what makes me happy. That’s all that counts.
    Snob is just name given to someone who really loves his activity more than normal.
    Hope he has a nice life.
    Snobs. You’d have to point them out to me.

  • Great article with some really well thought out points. The bad part is you also have people like me who cannot let himself pay $500 for one pipe but will happily own 30 pipes totaling over $1000. Smoke what makes you happy and I’ll do the same. As my mother says, “If everybody in the world was like me, it would be a really scary place.”

  • Thanks for a great read Kevin. I have seen both ends of the snobbery issue in both pipes and cigars. Snobbery in any form speaks to the insecurities of the person who is being a snob. I learned a long time ago that people should do what gives them pleasure and to never look down your nose at how they do it. One of the reasons that I like this site so much is there has been no snobbery that I have seen since I started coming here, unlike other pipe sites on the web.

  • Thanks for the article. It always boggles my mind at how some people are just dead set on seeing the differences between us rather than the similarities, especially when it comes to pipe smoking. After all, part of the reason I smoke a pipe is for the camaraderie with my fellow brothers (and sisters) of the briar. And that’s not to say that we’re all the same, we’re not, but those differences make us interesting as a group. As my dad would say, “The world is a big place. There’s room for everybody.”

  • Over here, you can’t get a decent pipe for under $100. A Dr John costs about $105, a Dr Plumb costs about $130, a Peterson costs between $150 and $175, a complete Falcon costs about the same, a Loewe costs about $250 and a Comoy costs about $330. (All prices quoted are NZ dollars).

  • Great article. I have always felt similarly about those who shun briar for cobs or low-end briar for high-end briar. Really it’s all about smoking what you like and liking what you smoke. Let the other guy enjoy his S. Bang; I’ll enjoy my patent Sasieni, and someone else enjoy his Grabow.

  • Funny, for the past 10 years or so, I have (almost always) “only smoked Cubans” and “$15, $20, $25 cigars and up.” And I have always referred to myself (deprecatingly) as a snob. But I am not, really. I also smoke other, less expensive cigars. And, as an aside, the Cubans I smoke are in the $8 range, but they are still Cuban.
    In any event, I would never think to care what someone else was smoking, or care what they liked. If someone lights up an Acid, and I can’t take it, I move. It doesn’t occur to me to think anything about what their tastes are.
    So, being 6 or 7 months new to pipes, I can say that I am having a blast. I have serious PAD for, not only Paolo Becker’s Morta pipes (way out of my price range at the moment), but also SmokinDragon’s cob creations (and I have one on order).
    It’s all about how it makes you feel, isn’t it?

  • Thanks for a nicely written article that identifies biases and compensation mechanisms in the context of our shared pastime and interests. But you’re probably casting pearls at… well, “you know”. 🙂

  • But we all agree that cigs are nasty. And that’s what really matters. Luxury tobacco and kickass pipes for the win. Spend a little, or spend a lot. As long as the pipe world lives on I’m good.

  • I tend to buy my pipes in the mid-range of $200-$400, but I really could careless what you smoke. Whatever makes you happy.

  • In a perfectly communist world, the poorer folk could smoke the more expensive pipes and tobacco and all would be fair. Of course, we would have to take turns on the pipe, and the tobacco would require hours of standing in line to get.

  • Excellent view on the subject, Kevin. I have everything from Grabows and Cobs to a Castello. One day, I would like to own a Dunhill. But I am a firm believer in smoke what you brought, whatever gives you the most bang for your buck. It’s all good.

  • Great read, Kevin. Way to see both sides of the coin and bring it all into perspective!

  • Excellent article, Kevin! I couldn’t explain the subject any better than that for sure.

  • One thing that never steers me wrong is to be in the mindset that you can learn something from everyone. Everyone has different taste, styles, and situation and something can be taken from that.

  • We are all as different as our thumb prints. No one better or worse than the other. We like what we like! And that’s ok!

  • This discussion comes up again and again, and I think that’s a good thing. The subject is difficult because the real issues have to do with social and economic class, education, and at the core I think, our individual desire to be accepted and our individual need for self respect. It’s different for everyone, depending on life experience.
    There have been times in my life when I’ve been a snob, and other times when I’ve been a reverse snob. In both cases, looking at the roots of these unattractive attitudes, it really had to do with deeply personal and often painful issues of self esteem. Our prejudices, whether they have to do with pipes and tobaccos, cars, art, people, or our own station in life, often are at least in part a way that we avoid dealing with the root cause in our psyche. I’ve found it to be hard, lonely work that, at least for me, never ends.
    The closest I’ve come so far to what feels right has to do with appreciating excellence, whether I can attain it or not, and at the same time nurturing affection for what I have in my life. The admiration I have for certain $1200 artisanal pipes that I might never be able to afford doesn’t take anything away from the relationship I can actually have with a carefully chosen piece that’s more within my means. And what I can afford takes nothing away from the thing I can’t. Both the aspiration and the reality are equally important to who I am.

  • Enjoyed it, Kevin. Good tobacco tastes good in any pipe, a bit better in some than in others, with cost not always being a factor. As I write this I’m smoking a handmade Charatan Executive flame grain, my most expensive and most beautiful pipe. It doesn’t smoke better than my Italian-made Brigham, but I get more pleasure smoking it because of its beauty. So for me, my Charatan was worth the extra cost; artisans, after all, must be paid or we will lose them. So here’s to artists and the beauty they create, and let’s forgive both kinds of snobs for their peccadilloes.

  • $25-$100 is my pipe price range….so far. I am a pretty much a blue collar worker/pipe guy. When I went over my previous $50-$60 range and paid $100+ for a Tsuge I damn near felt guilty. It wasn’t long before I got over the guilt though. Bought that pipe because a while back an etailer had some Tsuge pipes at clearance prices, $45. I love that pipe and it’s from a higher grade maker. So I thought maybe I’d get by with another of theirs and it too will be a great smoker; it was and still is fantastic and it has a bamboo shank. Just had to get me a bamboo, just one time at least. Now that doesn’t mean I’m snobby in either direction. I have some pipes that were given my by a person just recently, who stopped smoking in 1973 and they definitely not high end pipes. Many of them are great smokers, and, I think I now understand the value of the older briar wood and seemingly ‘true’ vulcanite. I found it to be softer to my teeth! It’s amazing, the difference. I’m talking Medico, Grabow, tobacco shop names and Comoy seconds, and a few unsmoked Jobey’s from that era. I’m down with medium, not breakin’ the bank pipes. Treated well they can be fantastic. However, I will admit that I DO WANT a high grade pipe one day soon just to see what the fuss is about. I love that saying that if you enjoy it then it’s the right thing for you concerning pipe and tobaccos. I’ll smokew my ‘blue collar’ priced pipea right along with anyone smoking a high grade and not feel the least bit lesser of a man for it. THANK YOU

  • Really good read sir. thank you. i tend to smoke what i can realistically afford. which is typically estate pipes than need a little TLC however, nothing burns my bowl more than some jackass acting superior due to his ability to purchase high end pipes.

  • Can i even myself out if i smoke a $$$ pipe, and drink a cheap lake erie wine?
    REally i do love the lake erie wine (not ripping on it). i have one dunhill that i just havent been able to smoke yet,so im not sure how they smoke.pete’s and sav’s are still my favorite. i have one friend that wont spend 20 bucks on a pipe, however he will spend 200 on some tobacco thats 20 years old. to each there own. so far i have not found any tobacco that did not have great qualities of its own.. I take that back haunted bookshop by c&d did end up in the trash. we all have different tastes,styles,and thats what makes this brotherhood special.

  • Nice article. I have no issues if someone wants to smoke a $600 artisan pipe or a $4.99 corn cob pipe. If you’re enjoying your pipe then that’s what really matters.
    I have a range of pipes that go from $5 to $230, with those being a Peterson, a hand carved artisan pipe, two Savinelli’s, several estate pipes, a couple basket pipes and a couple corn cobs. My cobs smoke just as well as my expensive pipes, with my favorite of the lot being one of my Savinelli’s. For me I don’t have a need to buy a pipe over $50-60 dollars, such as my two Savinelli’s as I know I’m getting a good quality pipe. I find no difference in the smoking quality and durability between those two and my Peterson and/or hand carved artisan pipe. I’m content with a nice $50-60 pipe; however, I don’t blame someone for wanting to smoke a more expensive pipe or a less expensive pipe. It all comes down to what you can afford and what gives you a great smoke.

  • I really enjoy your candor and honesty here. I am quite new to the pipe egregore and to the deep pleasure, discernment and peace it brings me. Considering the size, style and diversity of this unique culture, it is a bit disappointing to hear of those who would have such an affected perception. Any elitist or pipe proletariat does nothing to welcome new spirits (such as myself) into the fold. The enjoyment is so personal in experience that for me, any such attitude conveys either the desire for attention seeking or a compensating for insecurity. Still, exploring the craft-art of pipe design, collecting and gaining wisdom from those who are Veteran experts within the culture is what contributes to it’s noble nature, my education and to it’s more artful place. Though I now aspire to start a collection of my own, my recent purchase of a beautiful ebony Peterson was based on what you mentioned here, particular aesthetics and both the maker’s history and design. If the pipe had been 30 or 300, I was captured enough by all those factors to have it. Those who would chagrin at either spectrum of my pipe will certainly not be sharing some leaf and bourbon in my abode. So far, I have been fortunate not to encounter any in the flesh…..not yet anyway.