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That "Fact" That Coke Created Santa's Costume Is A Big Fat Lie

It's a popular theory, but it's not really true. A festive debunk!

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In recent years, it's become a popular understanding that Coca-Cola first created, and then popularised, the concept of a fat, bearded Santa Claus with red and white clothing.

It's become a well-known "fact" that has taken on a life of its own online, and has probably been mentioned to you at least once during a recent Christmas.
Twitter: @uberfacts

It's become a well-known "fact" that has taken on a life of its own online, and has probably been mentioned to you at least once during a recent Christmas.

The theory runs that Santa is based on Saint Nicholas, and that for many years he was depicted in a variety of differently coloured robes.

But when Coca-Cola started running campaigns in their brand colours of red and white, this became the cultural standard. The legend that Coca-Cola caused this remains persistent.
commons.wikimedia.org

But when Coca-Cola started running campaigns in their brand colours of red and white, this became the cultural standard. The legend that Coca-Cola caused this remains persistent.

However, it's actually not true. This was the first ever Coca-Cola ad to feature Santa Claus, produced in 1931.

It was painted by Haddon Sunblom, who continued to work with the company for another 33 years.
coca-cola.co.uk

It was painted by Haddon Sunblom, who continued to work with the company for another 33 years.

But the red Santa was quite widely known before that - these images are from 1925, 1908, and 1906.

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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.

Similarly, these images come from 1924, 1870, and 1916.

There are occasional depictions that use other colours, but the vast majority in the years prior to the 1931 advertisement use the red and white trope we're so familiar with.

The myth has been so widely reported that Coca-Cola even has a debunk of it on its website.

However, they do claim that they "played a big role in shaping the jolly, rotund character we know and love today."
coca-cola.co.uk

However, they do claim that they "played a big role in shaping the jolly, rotund character we know and love today."

So while it remains a commonly discussed theory, it's unlikely that Coca-Cola did any more than adopt an already popular conception of Santa Claus.

20th Century Fox / Via okmoviequotes.com

It's likely it's been so pervasive simply because it reflects an easy cynicism about the consumerist nature of Christmas.

Though all that doesn't stop everyone getting very excited when the Coca-Cola Christmas truck turns up.

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H/T: Snopes