why Santa wears red

No, Santa’s not part of the Red campaign. I heard on the morning radio with Casey Kasem that Santa Claus was a popular folk lore for decades, dressed in blue or yellow, often skinny and tall. And then in 1931, Coca-Cola did an ad campaign with a chubby red-suited Santa Claus, which matches the Coca-Cola colors, and now it’s become part of pop culture. The power of advertising at work — not only is the Coke brand (one of?) the most recognized around the world, it’s also shaped the image of Santa Claus as we know it.

This excerpt is from the Coca-Cola website:

Most people can agree on what Santa Claus looks like — jolly, with a red suit and a white beard. But he did not always look that way, and Coca-Cola® advertising actually helped shape this modern-day image of Santa.

2006 marks the 75th anniversary of the famous Coca-Cola Santa Claus. Starting in 1931, magazine ads for Coca-Cola featured St. Nick as a kind, jolly man in a red suit. Because magazines were so widely viewed, and because this image of Santa appeared for more than three decades, the image of Santa most people have today is largely based on our advertising.

But the crack research team at Snopes deconstructs the legend and declares it not entirely true:

This legend is not true. Although some versions of the Santa Claus figure still had him attired in various colors of outfits past the beginning of the 20th century, the jolly, ruddy, sack-carrying Santa with a red suit and flowing white whiskers had become the standard image of Santa Claus by the 1920s, several years before Sundlom drew his first Santa illustration for Coca-Cola. As The New York Times reported on 27 November 1927: “A standardized Santa Claus appears to New York children. Height, weight, stature are almost exactly standardized, as are the red garments, the hood and the white whiskers. The pack full of toys, ruddy cheeks and nose, bushy eyebrows and a jolly, paunchy effect are also inevitable parts of the requisite make-up.” … All this isn’t to say that Coca-Cola didn’t have anything to do with cementing that image of Santa Claus in the public consciousness. The Santa image may have been standardized before Coca-Cola adopted it for their advertisements, but Coca-Cola had a great deal to do with establishing Santa Claus as a ubiquitous Christmas figure in America at a time when the holiday was still making the transition from a religious observance to a largely secular and highly commercial celebration. I

Now I’m off for Dallas for 10 days…

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5 Responses

  1. auschick says:

    I remember having to do a marketing assignment on that a few years ago, though I hadn’t heard the snopes version before.

  2. Lisa says:

    The reason Santa wears red has nothing to do with coca-cola ,but it does have something to do with the saint Saint Nicholas