The Spirit of Ecstasy

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I saw a program on TV recently about the Bentley Bentayga, the new signature 4×4 developed by the luxury brand to appeal to a new market and selling at significantly over $200,000. The iconic Jack Barclay showroom in London’s Berkeley Square has been updated to cater for this new market with an extensive and slightly brutal makeover.

I don’t want to sound at all grumpy old bloke about this development, the car certainly does look refined and comfortable, albeit that it could be easily mistaken for an Audi Q7, but I get a little worried by the need for brands to extend – to reach out to a new market.  Arguably the brand needs updating but should they resist the temptation to simply following the crowd? Or is it that these cars are intended to be highly aspirational but are simply not special enough.

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The Bentley “B” on the bonnet is still in place but the bonnet ornament – the chrome winged “B” is no longer – almost certainly for good Health and Safety, if not aerodynamic, reasons. Sadly, it seems a thing of the past. Well not for all manufacturers …and being fair the winged “B” does appear on the bonnet of the beautiful Bentley Mulsanne.

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Originally conceived as a way of making a dull radiator cover more attractive only Rolls-Royce and Mercedes seem to continue the fine tradition of bonnet ornaments. The most iconic of these pieces of classic automobilia is, of course, The Spirit of Ecstasy.

In 1909 the then Lord Montagu of Beaulieu – a family inextricably linked to the world of motor cars and the founder of The Car Illustrated – sought something distinctive for the bonnet of his new Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. He commissioned sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes to produce a limited run of four figurines that became known as “The Whisperer”.

Some myth and legend surrounds the model, the sculptur’s muse, but it is said to be the Lord’s secret love, Eleanor Velasco Thornton, a Secretary from his office. Ms Thornton is depicted in flowing robes with her index-finger to her lips, perhaps keeping their love a secret? The affair is rumored to have endured for over ten years.

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By 1910 Rolls-Royce took a “dim view” as to the appropriateness of these ornaments and co-founder, Claude Johnson, commissioned Sykes to invoke the mythical beauty of Nike – the Goddess of Victory – to produce a dignified and graceful mascot. Sykes wasn’t so impressed by the brief but preferred to deliver the beautiful, “The Spirit of Ecstasy”.

It was a clear variation of The Whisperer but Johnson was very pleased with Sykes’ creation on its arrival in February 1911. Royce, however, who was then ill, felt it disturbed the driver’s view!

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Initially an optional extra by the early 1920’s the figurine was fitted as standard. Given changes to coach-work various versions of The Spirit of Ecstasy were used and in the 1934 Sykes was again commissioned to produce a kneeling version for the Phantom iV.

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As of 2003 – the Phantom model and all subsequent versions carrying a reduced the Spirit of Ecstasy only 3 inches tall and mounted onot a spring-loaded cradle that retracts when hit or the engine is turned off. Some years and a smart use of technology resulted in this retractable mount that clearly suggests Rolls-Royce’s determination to ensure the longevity of their iconic sculpture.

Whilst the majority are stainless steel a frosted crystal, illuminated version is a factory option.

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Images with grateful thanks – Tim Bishop, Jill Reger, Banham’s and Rolls-Royce Motors

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Adidas v Nike

It must be a Marketing Director’s dream. Develop a brand that begats a killer logo, place that logo strategically on your products and allow a willing purchaser to spend their hard earned cash to buy them. In buying your brand it says something of their taste and aspiration. In them wearing their purchases they deliver in their role as an “influencer” to their peer group, assuring their nearest and dearest that they too would do well to chose the same brand. For your brand, aside from the inevitable free advertising, the result is a triple whammy – 1. You have sold your products; 2. Your brand is seen – eyeballed – by others, a constantly moving reinforcement exercise and 3. You should be able to spend less on advertising. Why? Because your customer is doing the hard work for you! Marketing Director sleeps deeply knowing a good job’s been done!

There are many examples of aspirational brands that a purchaser is willing to “Show Off” wearing – and I make no judgment as I too am a very willing victim. Perhaps the definitives are:

Ralph Lauren and their famous Polo Shirts – see our previous post here – Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt

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Buy an iconic Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt by clicking the following AMAZON link Ralph Lauren Men’s Polo Shirt Classic Fit Various Colours (XL, Blue (Red Logo))

Rolex – wouldn’t you too like a Submariner too – see our previous post here Rolex Submariner

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Levi Strauss – I cannot remember not owing a pair of 501’s – read our earlier post here – Levi 501’s

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Add a pair of iconic Levi 501’s to your wardrobe by clicking this AMAZON link Levi’s 501 Original Fit Men’s Jeans, Blue (Onewash), 34W x 30L

Louis Vuitton – so popular that it is probably the world’s most copied brand!

Perhaps the best examples of brands that court conspicuous displays of their logos on arms, shoulders, legs and even tattoos, are the two iconic Goliaths of the sporting brands market: Adidas and Nike.

Odd isn’t it when there is a simple choice of two: The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Oasis and Blur, Amazon and E-bay, Adidas and Nike that the market is often quite vehemently polarised. For me it’s the Stones, Oasis, Amazon and Adidas but for others will be equally determined in their selection and the reasons for their choice.

Adolf “Adi” Dassler – Adi Das (geddit?) – founded his business in 1920, he started making shoes in 1924, registered the company name in 1949 and first used the three stripes identity on footwear in 1967 – that’s fifty years ago this year.

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The first use of the trefoil logo – intended to represent the three continent of Europe, Asia and America – that has become synonymous with their Originals range – was on Franz Beckenbauer’s tracksuit in 1971 and it later becoming the company’s corporate logo. By 1990 the three stripes arranged to represent a mountain, symbolising those challenges to be confronted and goals to be attained, became Adidas’ core and hugely recognisable logo.

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The truly iconic Adidas “Superstar” range has been available since 1969, along the way they have been given very heavy promotion by RUN-D.M.C. such that today they have achieved the classic cross-over from sports shoe to street wear.

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Get your own pair of Adidas Superstar by clicking this AMAZON link adidas Superstar, Unisex Adults’ Low-Top Sneakers, White (Ftwr White/Core Black/Ftwr White), 5 UK (38 EU)

Although a much younger business than Adidas, Nike (known as Blue Ribbon Sports until 1971) was founded in 1964 by Bill Bowerman and Philip Knight, and first produced footwear in 1971.

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The now famous Nike “Swoosh” was commissioned by Mr Knight and Carolyn Davison was paid $35 for her design that implied movement and speed. It is said that Mr Knight was less than excited about the design commenting that he thought it would “grow on him” – him and millions of others now share a love for this simple device. In 1995, given its distinctive market recognition, the company chose to replace its then logo, that comprised the combined Swoosh together with the company name, with just the Swoosh.

Having nailed my colours to the mast – I prefer Adidas – last year, my team, Chelsea Football Club, threw me a curve-ball. The Club announced, after many years of Adidas supplying the team’s kit and associated merchandise, that a many multi million pound deal has been conclude with arch rival Nike for the next ten seasons. I must say the new first team’s shirt is a classic, really well designed and made, and my son is a proud owner.

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Get you own 2017 Chelsea Shirt by clicking this AMAZON link Chelsea FC Home Football Jersey 17/18

Images Courtesy of Adidas, Nike, Ralph Lauren and Rolex

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Levi‘s 501

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501’s were seen as work-wear for much of its first sixty years being rechristened ‘blue jeans’ in the 1950’s.

Jacob Davis, a tailor, was approached by a workman’s wife asking for a stronger pair of trousers. He sought a solution to pocket and fly tearing experienced by workers using his denim trousers by applying copper rivets to the stress points of the garment. He then went in search of a partner to help make these early examples.

Levi Strauss was a dry goods vender who had sold Jacob the denim he needed for his early samples. They joined forces and the production which following its the grant of Patent on 20th May 1873  for “waist overalls” heralded a massive success.

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In 1886 the Two Horse leather patch was first used and added to the overalls.  In 1890 the Patent passed into the Public Domian, meaning the company lost their exclusive over riveted denim. As a result the company introduced the “501” as the definitive version of their denim work “waist overalls”, with copper rivets and the Two Horse leather and later the “leather-like” patch.

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By 1936 the Red Tab appeared. These ingenious and other design elements have ensured that Levi Strauss have been able to seek protection for their design against cynical copying. The company spend million of dollars annually protecting their Intellectual Property Rights.

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Always at the heart of youth culture, the universal appeal stems from its integrity, a loyalty to the original design, the highest quality denim and sturdy manufacture.

I have loved Levi’s jeans since a teenager. Whilst the waist band may have expanded – and indeed contracted on various occasions due to mad cabbage soup diets etc – I have been through zip-fly, yellow label and 360 degrees back to red-label button-fly 501.

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They are simply my favourite jeans that have seen me through endless concerts and music festivals. Dylan at Blackbush in 1977 (that included sleeping on Waterloo Station concourse due to a missed last train), to Glastonbury mud-caked, U2 and the Rolling Stones at Wembley to Mumford and Sons at Benicassim they have simply been more than a wardrobe anchor.

Today they combine perfectly with classic shoes, an Argentinian woven belt and a great shirt and/or jacket – depending on the season – for London creative business meetings. Less Revolution and more Evolution my 501s – and I now have several favourite pairs – are still beautifully made, ooze classic iconic style and are, above all, hugely dependable.

Would you like a pair of Levis 501? Click this AMAZON link to buy your own iconic jeans click the Amazon link below the image: 

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Levi’s 501 Original Fit Men’s Jeans, Blue (Onewash), 34W x 30L

The essential Argentinian belt can also be added here by clicking the Amazon link below the image – make sure you get the right length!

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Carlos Diaz Mens Womens Unisex Argentinian Brown Leather Embroidered Polo Belt (85 cm/ 32-34 Inches)

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Photo by Levi Strauss