For centuries, cigars have served as iconic accompaniments for men of wealth and power. Many famous figures such as Winston Churchill, Al Capone, and Alfred Hitchcock would seldom be seen without a signature stogie protruding from their mouths, each a top dog in their profession (legal or not). But what exactly has made the cigar such a prestigious symbol in the male corporate world? Below, we take a look at the history of these now iconic objects.
The Origins of Cigars and Status
Traditionally, cigars were not considered everyday objects that could be purchased willy-nilly by anyone; they were luxury items. This is because they were made by hand and imported from Cuba and Central America, making them largely too expensive for the average joe. Only the wealthiest of gentlemen, such as aristocrats, politicians and very rich businessmen, could afford to indulge in such extravagant goods.
Consequently, towards the end of the 19th century and into the next, cigars came to symbolise affluence, status and success amongst men. The popularity of in-house smoking rooms soared, and it became customary for male hosts and their (strictly male) dinner guests to visit them for an after-dinner smoke and a forthright discussion concerning business or politics. The chance to enjoy a stiff drink was also on offer during these post-dinner retreats, usually an expensive bottle of whiskey or cognac to compliment the finely crafted cigars.
Outside the home, gentlemen’s clubs were also on the rise, bustling with prestigious figures enjoying a leisurely smoke and debate. Throughout the day, men flocked to these often-luxurious venues to partake in the fashion of cigar smoking. However, the majority of these clubs were private, meaning that only certified members could gain access to them, creating an exclusive and elite clientele. As a result, their appeal was huge, so much so that even while travelling, provisions were often made for gentlemen who sought to uphold their membership status. This was demonstrated in the case of the Titanic, the plans of which included a large and lavish smoking lounge for select male guests to enjoy.
More Money Equals More Cigars
During the twentieth century, records show that, as well as becoming a fashion of the period, the growth in cigar consumption was also closely linked to the market trends of the time. As trading markets boomed for America and subsequently, the rest of the world, the demand for cigars hugely increased. Likewise, during less prosperous periods, as the market worsened and corporations suffered financially, cigar consumption declined. Records indicate that the worst of these periods included the Wall Street Crash (1929) and Black Thursday (1987).
As with many luxury products, these records show that ultimately, cash flow dictated cigar consumption through a knock-on effect: the more money moguls made, the higher they moved up the social hierarchy, earning themselves a welcoming pass into the exclusive world of gentlemen’s club cigar smokers.
Help from Hollywood
Another huge influence impacting the rising popularity of cigars over the last two centuries has been Hollywood. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the cigar has featured as a classic companion to many ‘successful’ male characters on the big screen, signifying their wealth, status or general ability to succeed. Shining examples of these include The Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood) in A Fistful of Dollars (1964), Vito Corleone (Marlo Brandon) in The Godfather (1972), and Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Each of these cutthroat characters were portrayed as powerful men at the top of their game, using their determination, brutality, or resilience to get there and of course, enjoy a well-earned cigar!
Today, cigars continue their reign as one of the most renowned signifiers of wealth and success amongst this century’s most affluent and powerful men. From domineering corporate players to worldwide Hollywood stars, the cigar remains an object to be enjoyed by those who have earned the right to do. If you’re looking for top quality cigars to enjoy much like these infamous gentlemen, check out Havana House now.