Thursday, June 9, 2011

Le Coq Sportif

This year, Le Coq Sportif (The Sporty Rooster) will replace Nike as the supplier of jerseys for Le Tour de France.  This got me thinking about why there is a sporting brand named after a flightless bird.

For me, chickens don't represent much in the way of sportiness.  When I think of chickens, I think yummy, a bit noisy, and commonly eaten by whatever animal wants to eat them.  Sure, if you’re a piece of grain you don’t want to come up against a chicken but otherwise you’re probably all right. 

So, I hit up a popular, free, web-based, collaborative encyclopedia to bring you the lowdown on this athletic domesticated fowl.

The brand was founded way back in 1882 by Émile Camuset.  He named his brand in honour of the Gallic rooster, which is a national symbol of France.

The rooster’s association with France came about during the Middle Ages.  At the time, the region now encompassing France, Luxembourg and Belgium was known as Gaul.  Someone from this area was thus known as a Gallus.  By a strange coincidence, gallus also meant rooster in a popular language of the period known as Latin.

Originally, this homophone was used by the enemies of Gaul to make fun of the them.  

The popular, free, web-based, collaborative encyclopedia explains that at this point the kings of France developed the link for the strong Christian symbol that the rooster represented.  This explanation, however, is apocryphal.

I know the truth to be rather different.  After relentless name-calling, the kings went to the Pope and said, “They’re calling us coqs.  Make them stop!”  And the Pope replied, “Just ignore them and they’ll stop.  They’re just trying to get a rise out of you.”

So, the kings went back to their castles and followed the Pope’s advice.  For a few hundred years, the advice seemed to pay off.  The name-calling ceased and the whole coq saga appeared to conveniently disappear.

As we know, though, the coq would return.  Like an ember, the memory of the coq lived on.  It took the winds of the French Revolution of 1789 to fan the flames and erect the coq once again as a symbol of France.

Before too long, there were coqs everywhere; on the stamps, on the coins, on the buildings, and even on some of the flags.  Some time later, there was even a coq in the form of a World Cup mascot named Footix.

Footix the friendly coq

The Gallic Coq battles the Prussian Eagle

And so, wanting his brand to capture the essence of France, what choice did Émile Camuset have but to choose the coq?  No choice.  And since it was a sporting brand, why not The Sporting Coq?  Why not, indeed.

Since then, Le Coq Sportif has been no stranger to le maillot jaune, gracing the shoulders of, among others, Anquetil in the ‘60s, Merckx in the ‘70s and Hinault in the ‘80s. 

Anquetil, Pingeon & Theillère


The Badger

The question now is, who'll get to wear the coq of the '10s?  And then, will he be allowed to keep the coq?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks ! I am French and i learned with a lot of interest the origin of our national symbol. I am glad Nike get out of cycling, they were absolutely not committed to it.