The hidden barriers, or ‘glass ceilings’, preventing women and minority ethnic groups from getting to the top are well documented.Yet questions of social class - and specifically class origin – have been curiously absent from these debates. In this talk we begin by drawing on new data from Britain’s largest employment survey, The Labour Force Survey, todemonstrate that a powerful and previously unrecognized “class pay gap” exists in Britain’s higher professional and managerial occupations. We then switch focus to ask why this pay gap exists. Specifically, we draw on 175 interviews across four occupational case studies – television, accountancy, architecture, and acting. This demonstrates that the class ceiling can only be very partially attributed to conventional measures of ‘merit’. Instead, more powerful drivers are rooted in the misrecognition of classed self-presentation as ‘talent’, work cultures historically shaped by the privileged, the affordances of the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’, and sponsored mobility premised on class-cultural homophily.