Why the Michelin Man Is White When Tires Are Black

The character pictured above is commonly known as the Michelin Man. He’s the mascot for Michelin, the company that makes automobile tires. If you weren’t familiar with him before, you may have thought he was a cousin of the Pillsbury Doughboy, or perhaps a more muscular version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Those two mascots, though, kind of make sense — the doughboy looks like a pile of raw dough and the marshmallow man looks like a big angry marshmallow. The Michelin Man, however, doesn’t resemble a tire at all, especially not in color. What’s going on here? Michelin got its start in 1892 making tires for bicycles. Those tires were made from latex that came from rubber trees, and rubber in its natural form is white. When Michelin was founded, the tires on cars were white, as you can see in the photo below. In the early 1910s, scientists discovered that adding a material called “carbon black” to the manufacturing process of tires made them more resistant to temperature changes, helping the rubber to wear down more slowly and making the tires stronger. While tire colors changed, the Michelin Man didn’t. He was a mascot the company felt was already well established, so why change him?