PEOPLE are just realising the meaning behind the iconic Michelin Man logo – and it turns out the tyre firm’s mascot has a bizarre history.
Michelin’s inflatable white man now can be seen perched on top of trucks all over the world.
But he was invented at provincial fair in Lyon, France in 1894, where brothers Andre and Eduard Michelin were advertising their new tyres.
One of the brothers twigged that adding arms and legs to a pile of tyres made it look like a man.
Several years later cartoonist Marius Rossillon adapted a German beer advert he had designed to show a man made out of tyres holding a broken glass – a symbol of Michelin tyres’ resistance to punctures.
The original German advert showed King Gambrinus, the mythological inventor of beer, swigging a pint – but the new Michelin Man “swallowed the bumps in the road” instead, making for a smoother ride.
The tyre man took the name Bibendum, from the Latin phrase ‘Nunc est bibendum” – “Time to drink”.
Over time, Bibendum – originally aimed at the rich few who could afford cars – lost his monocle and Cuban cigar.
He also at some point put down his broken glass, as the brand feared associations with drunk drivers.
He kept the ivory white colour of the first Michelin tyres even after the firm added rubber compounds and soot, turning them black.
As the Michelin empire spread worldwide, Bibendum adapted to new countries – wearing Bedouin costume in north Africa, a tuxedo and sash in Italy and a suit of armour in the UK.
Michelin promoters dressed as the tyre man would hand out Bibendum toys to passing families, and the Michelin Man even appeared in Asterix comics in Switzerland.
With the invention of radial tyres in the 1950s, truck drivers began sticking Bibendum mascots on top of their motors as a guardian angel.
In 2000 the Michelin Man was voted the best logo ever created, with polls finding that 90% of people worldwide recognise him.
It comes after the reason why the Chelsea badge has a lion it was revealed.
And people are just realising that Haribo’s name has a secret meaning – and that early gummy bear fans included one of history’s greatest boffins.