Abstract: The analysis of social types, such as the stranger, the marginal man and the folk devil, has a long, significant history in sociology and related fields. Although the social type concept currently enjoys a rather marginal status, in recent years the related concept of figure has been increasingly deployed in research. Extending recent research on figures and the sociology of moralisation as well as Bourdieu’s work on classification, this article draws on a case study to advocate a critical approach to the study of social types in which they are conceived as social identities tied to classificatory struggles over meaning, value, recognition and resources between differentially positioned social categories or groups. This argument is developed through a critical reading of studies on social types and figures, tracing the development of research from the classic work of Simmel, Benjamin and the Chicago School, via post World War studies by Schütz, Klapp and scholars in the moral panic tradition, to contemporary analyses of figures in cultural and feminist studies as well as in urban anthropology.