From Soup Tins To Dog Turds – How Life Got ‘Iconic’
THE England squad has departed to Miami for warm-up games en route to the World Cup finals in Brazil.
Or should that be ‘the England squad has embarked upon its iconic journey to Miami…’?
A recent ‘survey’ conducted among passengers at Heathrow Airport sought to find ‘the top 10 iconic departures that resulted in sporting history’.
The winner, should you happen to be interested, was Sir Ranulph Fiennes flying to conquer Everest and cross both polar ice caps in 2009. The runner-up was Andy Murray flying to America to win the 2012 US Open.
Leaving aside the preposterously tenuous nature of the concept – the plane trip that preceded the historic achievements – one thing in particular stands out: the word ‘iconic’ itself.
This iconic-by-association logic also begs questions such as: Which iconic toothpaste did they use? Which iconic underpants did they wear? Which iconic toilet paper did they use to wipe their iconic bottoms? And so on.
Back to the original matter: how exactly can a plane journey, even one as historic as the Wright brothers’ transatlantic milestone, or the first Concorde flight, be in any way ‘iconic’?
The Wright Brothers themselves, or Concorde itself – possibly. But a journey?
The answer of course is that ‘iconic’ is merely the favourite go-to adjective for PRs, marketers and hacks.
It started off as a variation on that other lazy misused epithet ‘classic’ and was more or less exclusively applied to old stuff. As opposed to new-old ‘retro’ stuff, which emerged from the marketing torture chamber marked ‘classic with a twist’.
But after a while ‘classic’ became too ‘last year’. It was also too restrictive, as it couldn’t be applied to new things.
At this point some genius hit upon the rarely-used adjective ‘iconic’, which had hitherto conjured visions of neatly painted religious icons, but which could potentially be sprayed over any old bollocks, old or new, in the hope that it would stick and, through endless repetition, eventually harden into a patina of cultural significance.
To begin with, it was used to give spurious gravitas to modern art, such as Marcus Harvey’s ‘notorious’ – or should that be ‘challenging’/‘cutting-edge’? – picture ‘Myra’, comprised of hundreds of infants’ hands.
…and to the objects formerly known as ‘design classics’, such as the Coca-Cola bottle…
…the Swiss Army knife…
…and Philippe Starck’s ridiculous and impractical lemon squeezer…
…or (and we are guessing here) the paper clip…
Once this trick proved a winner, the celebrity PRs moved in, and footballers such as David Beckham woke up one morning to find themselves celebrated as living icons…
In the decade that followed, the word spread like the proverbial iconic wildfire, until we reached the point where there is quite literally nothing to which the adjective cannot attach itself like a limpet. No press release is now complete without the word.
And here, after a completely unscientific survey of nobody, are Anorak’s Top Five Icons of the past 100 years…
5. Iconic soup, as seen by iconic artist and conceptualist Andy Warhol (as in ‘hols’).
4. Iconic charity worker Jimmy Savile.
3. Iconic Stannah Stair Lift
2. Iconic zany TV funny man Rik Mayall
And at number one: iconic novelty plastic dog shit. In the opinion of the judges, this ‘embodied all the elements required of a true British icon – design, longevity, humour, playfulness and beautiful simplicity’.
Order now, while stocks last.