Creepy Michelin Man Evolves into Cuddly Mascot
Introduced in 1894, the Michelin Man, or Bibendum as he’s properly known, is among the world’s oldest trademarks. During their attendance of an industry show in the late 19th century, brothers Edouard and André noticed a stack of tires which evoked in them the image of an armless man—shortly afterwards they presented this idea to a popular French cartoonist by the name of Marius Rossillon, who was responsible for the very first iteration of the now-famous mascot.
Bib, as he was once nicknamed, takes his title from the Latin term”Nunc est bibendum”, meaning “now is the time to drink”—the very first ads he appeared in depicted him engaged in a toast with a glass full of nails, shards of glass, and other road hazards, the implication being that Michelin tires drank up abuse with ease without going flat.
By the 1980s he was usually shown running, an attempt to shed a rather unhealthy image, and by his 100th birthday in 1998 he was reintroduced as an entirely new, slimmer, more athletic dude. But shouldn’t he be darker? Apparently, before 1912, tires omitted the use of a carbon preservative and strengthener, and were typically an off-whitish-beige color—since he was already recognized as a rather pale character by this point, his color simply stuck around.
Well-known today as a friendly, easy-going guy, early versions were beyond creepy, with Bib looking like a bloated zombie mummy coming apart at the seams—his appetite for broken glass and fat stoagies only reinforcing the scary imagery. We can easily imagine kids of the day growing unhealthy and irrational fears of anything on tires, where today they sell stuffed, plush versions for them to cuddle—quite a transformation in only 12 decades!