Back in the day when picking out a lunch box was an annual back-to-school ritual, selecting wisely mattered. "I considered my most important September decision to be choosing the right lunch box," reminisces Lisa Bramen, an associate editor at Adirondack Life magazine. "It had to last all year, if not longer, and it was a personal billboard, much like the concert T-shirt was to older kids, that would tell my classmates what I was into. The message I hoped to get across was: Hey, I dig Snoopy. Wanna be friends?"(image)
Lunch boxes originated in the late 19th century as pails made from heavy-duty toolbox-grade metal. A latched-lid kept the contents secure, as did the fact they were built strong enough to "protect the working man's noontime meal from anything less powerful than a small bomb." Carrying one also marked you as being too low on the economic foodchain to afford the price (and time) of a decent hot meal at noon. However, kids everywhere have always idolized workingmen and followed suit by repurposing colorful tins they found at home - typically for cookies, biscuits and tobacco - and crafting them into lunch boxes of their own. Mickey Mouse was the first cartoon character to grace a lunch box in 1935, but it took television to really put the juice (figuratively and literally) into the lunch box and make it the school-yard must-have of the 50s.
In 1951, ad man Leo Burnett created Tony the Tiger (1951) to sell Kellogg's new cereal, Frosted Flakes (or Frosties). This cereal is still a blockbuster well into its sixth decade and remains one of the top 10 bestelling cereals. Ever. (image)
(Fun factoid: the original and longtime voice of the sport-loving Tony was the improbably-named Thurl Ravenscroft, who also stole Christmas as the vocalist of You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.)
Tony has been enjoying a comeback of late, driven by the fact that many men have learned their way around a grocery store. Among 18 to 64 year olds, half identify themselves as the primary grocery shopper. And many were feeling annoyed that packaged-goods ads are mostly aimed at women and don't speak to them. So Leo Burnett created a man-centric campaign: Share what you love with who you love. "Dads love to share the things that he is passionate about with his kid," explains a Kellogg Senior Marketing Director, "and Frosted Flakes and sports are two of those things."
However, I think the longlasting appeal of Tony has to do with grasping at any shreds that remind us - whether real or idealized - of better times. Like an era when folks were unafraid to advertise prominently on the front of the box that it contains sugar. Which is why I find this reimagining (right) of Tony as an "actual real life moving and dramatic creature" by artist Guillermo Fajardo kind of creepy and disturbing. (image above)
Remembering is one of the prominent features of the Folkspun fashion tribe* - from the highbrow (preserving Haute Couture from the past) to the kitschy and personal (Kevin Durant's floral sneaker homage to his beloved Aunt Pearl). Or just plain fun, like this arm-candied homage to Tony by Anya Hindmarch for Fall 2014 that would be fun to carry for day or evening.
Her leather tote (top) is cheerily embossed and emblazoned with his happy head. This evening clutch was created by a third-generation miniaudiere maker in Florence who inlaid it with a pebbly-surfaced rawhide - generally from either a shark or a ray - called shagreen. Shagreen is a glamorous material long prized for being strong and beautiful, and even used at one point to make samurai armor. These tony Tony bags are part of Hindmarch's Counter Culture collection which "began with the idea of finding beauty in the banal" and were designed as "a celebration of the small things."
*NOTE: IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT EACH FASHION TRIBE, START HERE.
Podcast music: Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech.com
- Lesley Scott