THE BIRTH OF MASCOTS
Mascots have been around for centuries in some form or another. But the word itself comes from an 1880s French opera, “La Mascotte”. It’s the story of a young farm girl who brought luck to all around her —as long as she remained a virgin.
Misogynistic plot aside, the idea of a good luck charm had entered the public consciousness, and was quickly adopted by sports teams who wanted a competitive advantage. Often taking the form of a ferocious predator, these larger-than-life mascots started stirring up fervour with fans along the sidelines every week. Which, in turn, rallied the players on the pitch.
But it's not just sports teams that benefited from the good luck charm. To build up the fighting spirit during World War I, the English bulldog became a symbol of courage and determination for the British. All over the union, posters illustrated the tenacious dog standing above a mangled Nazi flag. Winston Churchill, during the Second World War, took on the mascot mantle himself and became affectionately known as the British Bulldog, bringing with it all the good and the bad connotations.
Across the pond, American politicians started seeing the benefits too. The Republicans became a grand old elephant, representing strength, power and wisdom. The Democrats became a less appealing donkey, first coined by the opposition, who believed that presidential hopeful Andrew Jackson was, well, a jackass. The Democrats, never being too proud, chose to own it. Today, both are emblazoned on badges everywhere, representing a truly divided nation.