The cigar is firmly entrenched in pop culture. It’s outlasted its siblings in the realm of pop culture, the cigarette, which was the victim of many anti-smoking campaigns (though remains highly popular among consumers), and the pipe, which simply fell out of common use. Its popularity and iconic position can be attributed to several individuals throughout history, but it’s in the last century where its reputation was truly earned and we have several incredible people we can thank for that.
Mark Twain. Born Samuel Clemens in 1935, the great American author and humorist wasn’t just wordsmith with a wicked mustache, he was a true master of the cigar. According to Cigar Aficionado, he smoked upwards of 22 cigars per day, though it’s believed that number was considerably higher. He loved to smoke while he wrote, among other things. For Clemens, it seemed any activity must be accompanied with a cigar, and for the most part, he wasn’t wrong.
Groucho Marx. Search Groucho on the web and you’re likely to find an abundance of image of the comedian with a cigar firmly planted in the corner of his mouth. In many ways, the cigar became one of his defining characteristics, along with his glasses and mustache. Without the cigar, he simply wasn’t Groucho, and people expected it. The characteristics were so defining, they’re still recognized today.
Sir Winston Churchill. The twice-serving Prime Minister of Great Britain in the 1940s and 50s was one of the defining figures during World War II. A great many photographs from the era show him firmly enjoying a cigar. Like Twain, Churchill’s love for the cigar was forever immortalized with his own type of cigar, one of a large variety.
John F. Kennedy. The 35th President of the United States loved his Petit Upmanns, so much so, he made sure he got his hands on over 1000 of them before executing the trade embargo on Cuba. He, along with his adversary, Fidel Castro, were often seen with a cigar in mouth, which is very unusual to see in today’s society, but it is a testament to the time, when tensions were high and world leaders needed that little something to take the edge off.
Clint Eastwood. Or more accurately, his character from the “Dollars” trilogy, or as it’s also known, “The Man with No Name” trilogy the character, who is actually referred to by a few different names (Joe, Manco, and Blondie). In Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns from the mid-1960s, Blondie seems to constantly puffing away on a cigar, especially in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, where Blondie’s cigar chomping habits become a minor plot point. Not only did Eastwood make cigar smoking look cool, he made it look completely natural.
Of course, each of these individuals had their heydays in the early to mid-20th century, during an era when smoking was viewed much, much differently than today. Smoking advertisements were everywhere. People smoked everywhere. There wasn’t a negative stigma attached to it. Over time, through the 70s and into the 80s, the popularity of cigars fell. In the 90s there was resurgence thanks to the likes of Bill Cosby and Demi Moore, among others, who brought attention back to cigars, since one, Cosby was seen as a wholesome family-oriented comedian, and Moore was an incredibly attractive woman, two people who seemed to be the opposite of what many people thought defined the cigar culture up to that point.