You don't have to look any further than Sherlock Holmes to see the significance of the pipe in Victorian England. The rich smoked cigars, and the poor smoked clay pipes. But for the people in between, the way they smoked became a metaphor for their rise in English society.
Holmes, as you may recall, smoked a meerschaum pipe. Meerschaum, made from a type of stone mined in Turkey, was a hallmark of the nascent middle class because it required so much care.
The tobacco smoked cooler and tasted better in the meerschaum than in a clay pipe, and the owner of the pipe worked to help cultivate its color with use. The selection of a pipe was a rite of passage for young men. They kept silk handkerchiefs for the ceremony of wiping and conditioning the pipe after each use.
A much-used and cultivated pipe was a marker of status. The pipe was a hobby for people who had time for hobbies, and the result -- a pipe with a rich brown color -- showed the world the experience and expertise of the smoker.