Face control refers to the policy of upscale nightclubs, casinos, restaurants and similar establishments to strictly restrict entry based on a bouncer's snap judgment of the suitability of a person's looks, money, style or attitude, especially in Russia and other former Soviet countries such as Ukraine. The term "face control" comes from the fact that establishments are attempting to use exclusivity to preserve their public "face".
Although a similar "velvet rope" policy exists in other countries, aiming to admit the right mix of "beautiful people" and keep out boring or unattractive would-be patrons, the Russian version is considered particularly harsh and unforgiving by Western standards.
Goscilo notes that, as the more upscale establishments are "temples of unbridled self-presentation-masquerading-as-pleasure", wealth is not enough to guarantee admission; a wealthy person who lacks the proper respect, culture, sartorial elegance, prettiness, or impressively expensive model car may nonetheless be denied admission. Face control, since it requires discernment, is considered an art, with Moscow only having about ten truly excellent face controllers.
Some establishments only practice face control on Fridays and Saturdays, so customers unable to meet the bouncer's standards can come at other times. In Moscow, stricter face control tends to be implemented as the evening progresses, so people can also avoid it by coming early for dinner, before the bouncers are posted. As foreigners are sometimes preferred, speaking English has also been noted as helpful in getting through face control. Simon Richmond advises to "arrive in a small group, preferably with more men than women" and to smile to "show the bouncer that you are going to enhance the atmosphere inside".
- Joshua Yaffa (September 25, 2009). "Barbarians at the Gate". New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
- Goscilo, Helena (4 October 2010). Celebrity and Glamour in Contemporary Russia. Routledge.
- Gustafson, Ingrid (27 November 2007). Let's Go Eastern Europe 13th Edition.
- Averbuck, Alexis. Lonely Planet Eastern Europe.
- Richmond, Simon. Lonely Planet Russia.