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What is a Rope Line?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A rope line is a type of barrier intended to protect prominent celebrities or politicians from the general public. It is also used to organize crowds, especially in crowded clubs and other public places. When a rope line is used in a celebrity context, it is often covered in velvet and it may be decorated with ornaments like tassels to make it more elegant. The side on which one stands can be an indicator of social status or clout.

To assemble a rope line, strings of heavy cabled rope are strung between upright stantions, or poles that are stabilized with broad, heavy bases. Depending on its formality, the rope may be made from velvet, satin, or imitators of these luxury materials, although lines from nylon and less formal materials can also be seen. Typically, it is configurable with clips that can be used to open and close gaps between stantions.

Obviously, a rope line is not a real barrier; it is intended to serve as a deterrent, keeping people out of a certain area. As a result, it is usually attended by a security detail. Members of the security team keep people from pushing against the rope, and they are on the watch for people who try to cross or duck under the line to reach the restricted area. For security teams, it can be very stressful, since an open area presents a lot of risks.

For politicians, “walking the rope line” after an event is a useful publicity tactic. People who are unable to get into the event may wait at the line in the hope of meeting a politician, shaking his or her hand, and exchanging a few brief words. For high profile politicians like national leaders, access is tightly controlled to ensure the safety of the politician, and people may not be permitted to directly touch the politician.

At celebrity events like concerts, plays, and movie premiers, the rope line often lines a “red carpet,” a formal promenade to the entrance of the event. Celebrities on the carpet may be photographed and videotaped by news agencies, and they often perform short interviews as well. Prominent newscasters may be allowed to walk the red carpet with celebrities for the purpose of getting close-ups and sound bites.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By orangey03 — On Sep 04, 2011

The movie theater in my city has red velvet ropes inside, along with red carpet. I guess this is supposed to make us feel like movie stars going to a premiere while herding us and blocking us from illegal entrance.

The rope lines serve two purposes. The ones near the counter and concession stand are there to keep people in separate lines. The ones that run between the lobby and the hall where the movies are played keep customers from entering until they have presented their tickets to the worker guarding the entrance.

By Perdido — On Sep 04, 2011

My bank has really nice looking rope lines between teller stations. They are covered in green satin, and they make it easy to tell who is next in line.

I like this setup better than the open floor that they used to have. Back then, the next available teller would always say, “I can help someone over here,” and there would be a mad dash of several people from each line to her section.

Ever since they have gotten the rope lines, if a teller becomes available, she just waits there until someone at the end of a line sees that she isn’t with a customer and goes over there. This prevents arguments and confusion among clusters of people.

By lighth0se33 — On Sep 03, 2011

I was so happy when my pharmacy finally decided to get rope lines to make people stand single file. People had always clustered around, and there was contention about whose turn it was next. I never understood why people would not just stand behind each other.

The pharmacy now has cable up that starts at an “enter here” sign. The cable then takes a ninety degree turn toward the counter. Once a customer is finished, they follow the cable out the other way to the “exit” sign. It is exceedingly simple improvement that makes going to the pharmacy quicker and less stressful.

By StarJo — On Sep 02, 2011

I have seen a lot of red velvet rope lines at awards show entrances. Maybe they are red so that they match the red carpet.

The poles that support the rope lines are usually gold at these events. Perhaps that is to add to the intimidating royalty effect.

Security is so thick along the outer edge of the rope lines that obsessed fans couldn’t get through even if they managed to get close. Those security guards are extremely big and bulky, and most people would just bounce right off of their chests if they lunged toward them.

By jholcomb — On Sep 02, 2011

Isn't it interesting how well those polyester ropes work at actually keeping people away? I mean, you could walk right over them, but you don't. (Obviously, if you stepped over the president's rope line, the Secret Service would knock you down and you'd probably wind up with broken ribs and on the no-fly list, but it works in banks and stuff, too.)

Guess most of us really are sheep! We go where we're told to go.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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