The Real Reason Why Michelin Man Is White Despite Tyres Being Black

Bibendum, also referred to as the Michelin Man Logo, is the recognised symbol of the Michelin tyre manufacturer. He was first used by the Michelin brothers in 1898, making him one of the oldest trademarks in existence.

Bibendum monument in Spain
Bibendum monument in Spain/Wikimedia Commons

Other names for Bibendum include Bibelobis and Bib. He made his debut in a Michelin advertisement with the Latin phrase “Nunc est Bibendum,” which means “Now is the time to drink.”

History of Michelin Man

When Edouard and André Michelin attended a colonial exposition in Lyon in 1894, they got the initial inspiration for the Michelin Man. Edouard observed a pile of tyres that resembled a guy without arms. But it would take a further four years for the symbol to actually be created. André then encountered O’Galop, a French cartoonist (real name Marius Rossillon).

Original poster, produced in 1898.

O’Galop had previously created a logo proposal but the Munich brewery had rejected it. It featured a regal figure holding up a huge beer glass with the Horace quotation “Nunc est Bibendum.” Andre concurred and proposed that the guy in the drawing be replaced with one fashioned from a stack of tyres. The first Michelin Man was subsequently used by O’Galop to reproduce the sign, and the rest is history.

Not long after its inception, Michelin Man began to play a significant part in the company’s marketing initiatives. He became the brand’s face for advertisements, product presentations, and on-the-spot roadside assistance.

Rise To World Stage

In 1905, Michelin established its first sales office in the United Kingdom, in London. He was changed by the Michelin branding team into a knight with a shield and helmet who was prepared to conquer new ground.

The London Michelin Man also showed up equipped with eyewear, a cigar in his mouth, and a cup, all of which are typical aspects of British society. “My strength is as the strength of ten because my rubber is pure,” was the catchphrase utilised for the English market.

Over time, the corporation employed a variety of painters, who each gave the character their own unique interpretation. He was modelled after bicycle tyres, hence the thin aspect of the tyres, and his demeanour, depicted as bespectacled and smoking a cigar, mirrored the culture of the usual customer.

Origin of “Bibendum” name

By chance, the character’s name, Bibendum, became well-known. When André Michelin was arriving during the Paris-Amsterdam-Paris races, one of the drivers, Léon Théry, yelled, “Here comes Bibendum!” in allusion to the word that appears on the Michelin poster.

The name persisted even though Théry had no idea what the Latin term meant and gradually came to represent the figure.

Reason Behind Bibendum White Colour

Michelin logo.

Bibendum’s white look has also drawn attention, despite the fact that its tyres are black. It turns out that prior to 1912, when manufacturers began to add Carbon to the rubber substance, tyres were actually white. The carbon acted as a preservative and gave strength to the rubber. The Michelin Man still sports his original white paint job, nevertheless.

Over the years, the appearance of the Bibendum character has changed considerably. On his 100th birthday in 1998, he was slimmed down to reflect contemporary tyres, which were smaller and lower-profile. By the 1980s, he was running with a tyre. But by this point, the term “Michelin Man”—used to describe someone who appears chubby—had become commonplace.