No matter your reference points, cigars have almost always been associated with class or power since their commercialisation. From seeing Winston Churchill smoking his preferred Romeo Y Julieta sticks to Clint Eastwood and JFK, cigars, and the action of smoking one, suggest elegance, wealth and class. But how did it get this way? The way we have chosen to consume tobacco has changed countless times throughout the years and continues to change even today. Here, we’ll be taking a look at how public perception of cigars has evolved throughout history and the lifestyle of those that choose to smoke them.
It is widely believed that the Mayans were the first to create something that somewhat resembled a modern cigar, in around the 10th century. Early smokes were by no means what we enjoy today, with tobacco being wrapped in palm or plantain leaves and smoked.
Fast forward a few hundred years to the late 15th century and Italian explorer Christopher Columbus was introduced to the practise when he discovered the New World. From 1493 to 1503, he led four voyages across the Atlantic ushering in a new era of exploration. During his time on land, the local people introduced to him and his crew the practice of smoking tobacco, a habit which they all quickly adopted and introduced to their home nations upon return. Additionally, Jean Nicot, the French Ambassador to Portugal at the time, helped to popularise smoking in his home country of France, with the drug nicotine having been named after him. Subsequently, the takeup in smoking was rapid, with companies beginning to grow tobacco and mass-produce cigars too.
After Columbus claimed the land of Cuba for Spain, the fertile lands and ideal climate of the country were used to good effect, with Spain placing a monopoly on tobacco and establishing an industry dominance. The tobacco was distributed from Cuba across the continent of Europe and into Asia, cementing the practice of smoking into countless countries and creating an insatiable appetite for this newfound hobby.
Seen by many as the homeland for cigars, Cuba also had a hand in associating the hobby with a form of clothing. Estimated to have originated in the 18th or 19th century, a ‘guayabera’ is a form of long sleeve white shirt with four large pockets. Typically worn in summer, these shirts would have used to carry items such as cigars throughout the day. They were also worn by local farmers who grew guavas, bestowing the name guayabera based on the Spanish pronunciation of the fruit’ guayabas’. The shirt has since taken on a life of its own, with popular cigar brands now creating their very own versions perfect for carrying around smokes.
Modern Cigar Smoking
Around this time in Europe, the popularity of cigars would proliferate, especially among the more affluent of the population. The mid 19th century marked a turning point in cigar history, with the creation of cigar lounges that stocked premium brands of the smokes, such as Punch and Partagas. The rich were quick to associate the ownership and consumption of cigars with class, so began to purchase the smokes as an accessory. The smoking lounges, much like the coffee houses that came before them, were places for men to gather, smoke cigars and converse, either about business or leisure. Typically, suits or smart clothing would be worn on such occasions, accompanied by a smoking jacket which would protect clothing from falling ash and the smell of smoke.
The 20th century evidently was the final piece of the puzzle for cigars and the lifestyle they are now associated with. Culturally important figures adopted cigars as their smoke of choice, such as JFK and Winston Churchill, inadvertently associating them with power and an upper-class lifestyle that many could only dream of. Being able to smoke a cigar was a small connection to an idyllic life, perhaps leading to the popularity of more budget-friendly cigars.
However, with the advent of cigarettes and the convenience of being able to consume tobacco by smoking in a quicker and easier way, cigars began to drop in popularity, especially among working-class people. That being said, cigars, even today, have retained a core segment of consumers that value quality over convenience. Still smoked by celebrities and public figures, although more seldom seen, cigars have preserved an air of elegance and style that cigarettes never offered. There has even been a resurgence in the creation of new cigar brands and products, with old and new companies alike striving to produce superior blends. To accommodate this, new cigar smoking locations such as lounges have opened in cities across the world. Even in the UK, with its strict smoking laws, there is a slew of indoor options that cater to those who want to enjoy a tasty smoke.
You can find the best places to smoke cigars in London right here on our blog, along with loads of useful tips on getting the most from your collection. Want to indulge in your own slice of elegance? Look no further than our range of Romeo Y Julieta cigars, Winston Churchill’s favourite!