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February 20, 2010 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Why is Bibendum — the "Michelin Man" — white? Isn't he made out of tires?

I would have thought a cartoon man made of tires would be black, like the color of most tires one sees today. There are white walls, of course, though the rim of the tire is not what one sees when looking at Bibendum's outer body.

From reading the Wiki page, the original design was inspired by a concept of one of the original two Michelin brothers.

Were tires generally made using a different dye or coloring back in late 1800s France? Would it have been risque to switch to advertising with a black cartoon logo back then? Did it initially confuse the French back then, as well?
posted by Blazecock Pileon to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Googling brought me here:

Michelin man is white because back in the day they shipped tires in white paper (replaced with blue wax/plastic today)
posted by sallybrown at 5:16 PM on February 20, 2010


I thought tire rubber was blackened (and perhaps strengthened) with added carbon? because you ustacould rock these awesome Hawaiian white (carbonless) gaskets on your old VW beetle. so maybe white rubber was the default when Bibendum was conceived?
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:17 PM on February 20, 2010


oh, sallybrown, there you go, letting the facts get in the way of a good (admittedly not all that good) story.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:18 PM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Toodleydoodley, you might be right!

Googling also turns up this:

If Bibendum was made of tires, the reader may ask, why wasn't he black? Simple answer: Tires weren't black until 1912, when makers first began adding carbon black as a preservative. Until then they were either a gray-white or a light, translucent beige.
posted by sallybrown at 5:20 PM on February 20, 2010


If Bibendum was made of tires, the reader may ask, why wasn't he black? Simple answer: Tires weren't black until 1912, when makers first began adding carbon black as a preservative. Until then they were either a gray-white or a light, translucent beige.

From this article.
posted by amyms at 5:21 PM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:23 PM on February 20, 2010


Huh. I had always thought/been told he was white because the company didn't want to have a black mascot, thinking he wouldn't be accepted by customers. Then again, I had no idea that he dated back to the 1890s, or that he originated in France, or that tires at that time were white, so I guess that probably made up by someone trying to seem knowledgeable.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 12:44 AM on February 22, 2010


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