The Zippo Lighter

The Zippo Lighter – Written by Henry Gibson

‘Zippo’ is amongst the most popular lighters used to spark up a cigarette, light a fire and other relevant uses. Founded in 1932 by an American entrepreneur, the popularity of these lighters rocketed and by June 2012 more than 500 million have been sold. Zippos are renowned for their sleek and elegant designs, sturdy build and their price tags ranging up to extortionate amounts. There are an extremely diverse array of lighters that are on offer and even those that hold a ‘rare’ or ‘unique’ value which are sought after by collectors. ‘FORBES estimates revenue has increased by a compounded 14% in the past three years, thanks to a new, nonsmoking CEO, Greg Booth, who pushed the 82-year-old manufacturer’s legendary lighters at a younger audience and expanded business in China.’

The most obvious factor when considering the increase in Zippo lighter use is an increase in smokers as the population steadily rises. Although Zippo lighters are a multi-purpose product, they are aimed more towards smokers. The Zippo brand can be seen as a ‘trendy’ way to smoke, it is a fashionable item to have which may appeal to certain stereotypes and characteristics. Famous and well known people are the trendsetters of the brand, they continue to promote Zippo and most of the time it is unintentional. For example, if a celebrity is filmed or photographed using a Zippo lighter, this will then be published and consumers will catch onto this. Consumers also have the ability to purchase customised Zippo lighters, this is an attraction to people who want to cater to their own individualistic taste. Other people, such as tourists for example, can buy Zippos abroad that represent the country or place that they have visited.

It could also be argued that Zippo lighters are viewed as untrendy due to the fact that living a healthy lifestyle is more encouraged nowadays. An increasing number of people are becoming more and more concerned with their health and wellbeing. Due to the media, health service and other campaigns, lifestyle choices such as smoking are shunned upon by those who follow this trend. If the Zippo brand is attached to the smoking stigma, this neglects the healthy lifestyle trend and will therefore be rejected by health critics. Good or bad, it still continues to be a trend nonetheless, however Zippo lighters are still used for many things other than smoking so this point could be seen as invalid.

Zippo could be considered as a fashion as well as a trend. This is because even though it has progressed steadily through the life cycle of the smoking trend, it is also associated with certain fashion trends that come and go. The Zippo lighter is a micro trend as it comes under the category of ‘lighters’ and is a specific product aimed at consumers. As fashion trends fade away and new ones come to light, it is unknown whether the Zippo will remain in the spotlight.

Consequently, is the Zippo brand considered just a fashion icon or will its practicality still be used for years to come?


Brown, Abram. Sparking Zippo. (2014). Vol. 194 Issue 3, p52-54. 3p


Then and now – Zippo


One thought on “The Zippo Lighter

  1. Consequently, is the Zippo brand considered just a fashion icon or will its practicality still be used for years to come?

    Personally, if I think about the Zippo lighter, I immediately experience heaps of flashbacks that are full of movie scenes (like Reservoir Dogs (1992) by Tarantino) or pictures of famous artists, actors and musicians. There is some sort of rebellion around the use of Zippo lighters. They are functional, work well for years, have been used for years, can be personalised and they are quite fashionable indeed. Especially if you compare them to their cheap plastic alternatives. I think that people can easily identify with the brand and can see it as an investment to buy a quite expensive lighter.

    Like you already stated in your article, smoking (and the use of zippo lighters) seem to be untrendy these days since a healthy lifestyle seems more important. The government also banned smoking in public places, which seems to help to make smoking less popular in general. On the other hand, there will always be people who want to smoke or own an epic lighter.

    I am a bit confused by the fact that you consider the Zippo lighter as a micro trend, but I think this is mainly because I never experienced a clear peak in the use of the lighters. I feel like they are popular for years already. On the other hand, it’s true that it’s a consumer product that is popular and more stable than a fashion trend or a hype.

    I do think that the Zippo lighter turned into a fashion icon since there are a lot of people who own one, while they don’t regularly smoke. Wouldn’t it be great to throw your burning Zippo onto a trail of gasoline which will end in an epic explosion?

    – Cashmyra Rozendaal

    Liked by 1 person

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