What Makes an Icon, an Icon?

This story originally appeared on the Gents Cafe Newsletter. You can subscribe here.

Making a post the other day with the pictures of a Land Rover Defender, one word kept popping into my mind: “Icon”. But I couldn’t stop thinking, what makes an icon?

To me, the word, the description, the designation “Icon” has lost a bit of its significance – it is being thrown around left and right, and almost immediately a given product seems to have achieved “iconic status”; and it’s a shame.

In the sphere that surrounds Gents Cafe, we often refer to and admire the icons; the tunes from the iconic musicians like Chet Baker or Bruce Springsteen, the iconic lines on the Porsche 911 or Land Rover Defender, the iconic history of the Omega Speedmaster or Rolex Submariner or even the menswear icons like Gianni Agnelli or Steve McQueen – and what ties all these together?

History is the first thing that comes to mind. Whether you are referring to a person or an object, there needs to be a significant history behind – the Speedmaster’s trip to the moon is a good example. Even though designed for racing and land speed, it travelled to the moon and is to this day still flight-qualified by NASA. And today’s Omega Speedmaster Pro still trails the design lines of the first ref. CK2915.

Design and/or style-wise, there is probably not a more obvious example than the Land Rover Defender or Porsche 911. Even though having evolved through many decades of history, the outlines never leave the viewer with any doubts. The design impact these cars have had to not only subsequent models in the automotive business, but also brought inspiration to so much more.

And then there is of course “Impact” – all icons have in one way or the other had an impact; be it politically, a design that is still the benchmark today, McQueen or Agnelli’s impeccable styles that were just as good then as now. All had made an impact in history – both past and present.

“Iconic” is not a label that can be applied – the iconic status is something that is earned throughout time, history, impeccable design – and when you achieved this status – make sure to brag about it.
It is well earned.

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