ICONIC BRANDING OF A BUNNY KIND | THE BIRTH OF PLAYBOY MAGAZINE

PLAYBOY BUNNY LOGO SWIMSUIT PLAYMATE

How unlikely would it seem today, if someone were to tell you that they were planning to build one of the world’s sexiest and most recognizable brands– with a logo based on a bunny? Well, that’s exactly what Hugh Heffner did. Seriously, doesn’t it sound kind of nuts? Looking back on the vintage images of the bunnies in their heyday, there is an undeniable naivete and corniness, mixed with an overtly demeaning attitude towards women– and wow, did it work.

Heffner was gifted with an ironic stroke of fate when the original “Stag Club” name that was going to grace his new men’s magazine was legally blocked by Stag magazine. He needed a new handle, and the stag was soon converted to the now iconic bunny, in a historic and innuendo-laden rename. Playboy later ran a pictorial article on Chicago’s Gaslight Club, and was overwhelmed by thousands of readers requesting to join this exclusive key members club. Playboy execs smelled a golden opportunity, and soon plans were laid to open their own private key holder’s club.  All that was needed now was the vision.

After many go-rounds, the decided-upon bunny custom was nipped and fluffed until it met Heffner’s critical approval. They say he was particularly smitten with the tail– go figure. In 1960, when the very first Playboy Club opened– the so-called icon of the sexual revolution was off and hopping. Seems almost more like a misogynist’s ___ dream than a liberating sexual revolution if you asked me.

Liberating for whom, exactly?

Unwilling to lose time in litigation for the "Stag Party" name, Hugh Hefner renamed his magazine "PLAYBOY" and chose a new symbol. Arv Miller transformed his original stag mascot to a rabbit. Founding Art Director Arthur (Art) Paul then created the world-famous Rabbit Head logo.

Unwilling to lose time in litigation for the “Stag Party” name, Hugh Hefner renamed his magazine “PLAYBOY” and chose a new symbol. Arv Miller transformed his original stag mascot to a rabbit. Founding Art Director Arthur (Art) Paul then created the world-famous Rabbit Head logo.

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 Hugh Hefner and Playboy Bunnies at the Chicago Playboy Club  --1960.

1960, Hugh Hefner and Playboy Bunnies at the Chicago Playboy Club.

Playboy Bunny getting ready to work her magic.

Playboy Bunny getting ready to work her magic.

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Hugh Hefner jet-setting with his Playboy Bunnies.

Hugh Hefner jet-setting with his Playboy Bunnies.

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Marilyn Monroe playboy magazine cover

The first issue of Playboy magazine had a smiling Marilyn Monroe waving on the cover. “First time in any magazine. The famous Marilyn Monroe nude,” what an honor!

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VINTAGE 1960S PLAYBOY MAGAZINE COVERS BUNNY

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Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunnies at the Playboy Mansion --1966.

1966, Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunnies at the Playboy Mansion.

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PLAYBOY BUNNY SWIMSUIT WHITE CHAIR AFRO

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Playboy Magazine cover 1960s 1970s

 

Darine Stern and the Playboy icon chair on the October 1971 cover. Darine was the first Afro American beauty to be on the cover of Playboy magazine.

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Keith Richards and The Rolling Stones paying a visit to the Playboy Club.

Keith Richards (background, look for it…) and The Rolling Stones paying a visit to the Playboy Club.

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Vintage Playboy magazine ad

WHAT SORT OF MAN READS PLAYBOY? Vintage ad from 1969.

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Playboy magazine spoof

“WHAT SORT OF MAN READS MAD” –Playboy magazine ad spoof.

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PLAYBOY BUNNY TWINS

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Playboy Club key for members only.

Playboy Club key for members only.

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New York's Playboy Club back in the day.

New York’s Playboy Club back in the day.

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Playboy Bunnies wave as Hugh Hefner's private jet lands in London-- 1970.

1970, Playboy Bunnies wave as Hugh Hefner’s private jet lands in London.

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1960S PLAYBOY BUNNY CLUB

Dec 1962, Manhattan — “A View from the Rear” : A scantily clad “bunny,” of the Playboy Club, gives an interesting “rear view” as she chats with patrons during the opening of the Manhattan branch of the chain of clubs.  One of a chain normally operated as private establishments, the Playboy Club in New York reluctantly began giving its keys away to non-members in order to receive a liquor license.  The New York State Liquor Authority has ruled that the “featured” club keys may be used only as a type of credit card. — Image by © Bettmann/ Corbis

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12 thoughts on “ICONIC BRANDING OF A BUNNY KIND | THE BIRTH OF PLAYBOY MAGAZINE

  1. My last condo was next door to State street mansion; every single day I walked past it my thoughts would wonder thinking about the amount of craziness that happened inside that building…now it’s seperated into condos, but still in tact. Beautiful piece of Chicago architecture.

  2. I just came across your post and thought this article might make an interesting read for anyone thinking, “Why a rabbit? And where did it go these days?”

  3. My father had the pleasure to live in the Playboy Hotel in Miami Beach. He said it was a young mans dream come true. I just sent him the link, he wanted me to thank you.

  4. The branding was so good that many a young man would spend a bit of time scanning the cover of each issue looking for the “hidden” bunny logo.

    So a magazine which most men bought for the inside content, had them spending time just staring at the cover.

    Now THAT’S some branding with a logo.

  5. The girls were always fairly voluptuous and incredibly sexy….or maybe my testesterone count was just higher back them……far more physically appealing than the slimline models more in fashion today.

  6. It’s too easy to call Playboy ‘misogynist’; we owe a great debt to Hef for bringing sex into the light in a respectable and mainstream format. Our country still struggles with Puritanical urges to deny sexuality, but Playboy paved the way for public discussion of the whole spectrum of sexual proclivity – straight, queer, bdsm, what have you. The Pandora’s box of sexuality, once opened, can’t be packed into one label; Playboy elicits equal parts lust, awe of the divine feminine, fear, anxiety, longing, delight, and a host of other feelings. Hef may have had a particular bent towards women, but even Gloria Steinem progressed through being a Bunny; her struggle for women’s liberation wouldn’t have happened had Playboy not existed.
    I have a Bunny in my family – Brandi Brandt (7 times in the mag!) – and while it’s not a career path I would prefer for my daughter, it has served her life well.

  7. I have a Playboy club key from the 1960′s
    It has LA 3577 inscribed in it, does it have any value beyond sentimental?

  8. Pingback: THE 1970’s PUBERTY PIN-UP WARS | FARRAH FAWCETT VS. CHERYL TIEGS « The Selvedge Yard

  9. I find the old-school Playboy Bunnies just wildly sexy. Though there is no doubt Playboy was misogynistic, I think we still see that today just in a less overt way in men’s magazines and what is expected of our modern sex symbols. The Bunnies of that time that served in the clubs were impeccably groomed, polite, charming, intelligent, talented, beautiful and patient, all qualities that they had to have to survive in a pretty tough environment that expected a lot of them. There was variety between them, though they were all pretty beyond measure – so not exactly the ‘girl next door’, but they had gorgeous bodies of different types and different skin colours and different hair colours. They didn’t all have breast augmentations and liposuction and straighten and bleach their hair and act like ‘girls gone wild’ to fit into what was sexy. Plus the iconic costumes? Stroke of genius that just looks so tacky and unpleasant on the Playboy models of today, but suited the time perfectly.

    • I wouldn’t say Playboy was misogynist. The definition of hating women doesn’t fit. Now, you can say it was sexist and chauvinistic. I think Hefner loved women, in his own narrow view of them, and most readers did too. The magazine certainly contributed to the openness needed to move from a sexist point of view to a more liberated one and help bring sexuality out in the open. Unfortunately, sometimes I think we are regressing.

  10. My dad was the music editor for Playboy during the sixties and early seventies. Not only has he told me about the insane parties, and Hef gracing his presence from time to time, but he would also talk about a time when it was common to see people reading it out in public. Now its lack of editorial leadership and journalistic integrity (selling the cover to Axe Body Spray) makes it so you won’t see it anywhere besides bathrooms. This post was awesome. Thanks.

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