That’s because, unlike many other car badges and logos, the Chevy bowtie logo does not have one agreed upon meaning. In fact, there are a bunch of different theories about what it means and where it came from.
The wallpaper theory
The most official account about the meaning behind the Chevrolet logo comes from company co-founder William C. Durant himself. (Now, I know what you’re thinking: If this is what the boss said the meaning was, why isn’t it the official meaning? Well, there are plenty of stories from others close to Durant that refute this upcoming story.)
According to Durant, the Chevy bowtie logo is inspired by a wallpaper design from a hotel in Paris, France. In an official Chevrolet publication dated 1961, company staff whimsically wrote this: “It (the bowtie) originated in Durant’s imagination when, as a world traveler in 1908, he saw the pattern marching off into infinity as a design on wallpaper in a French hotel. He tore off a piece of the wallpaper and kept it, to show to friends, with the thought that it would make a great nameplate for a car.”
The dinner sketch theory
But the wallpaper theory is not exactly how it went down, if you believe Durant’s daughter, Margery, that is. In 1929, 32 years prior to the publication of the wallpaper theory, Margery published a book called “My Father.” In the book, Margery wrote about how her dad used to doodle at the dinner table. “I think it was between the soup and the fried chicken one night that he sketched out the design that is used on the Chevrolet car to this day,” she wrote in her book.
Check out the video below to see how the Chevy bowtie logo has evolved over the years:
The newspaper ad theory
Another Chevy logo theory appeared in a 1986 issue of Chevrolet Pro Management Magazine. It recounted a 13-year-old interview with Durant’s widow, Catherine, according to a web page on the Chevrolet website. In said interview, Catherine mentioned how she and William were on vacation in Virginia in 1912 (60 years earlier) when he spotted an advertisement in a newspaper and said the design “would be a very good emblem for the Chevrolet.”
The problem with this story was that Catherine never said, explicitly, what William was looking at. In the months after the article ran in 1986, a Chevrolet historian was able to dig up a 1911 Atlanta newspaper that featured an advertisement from Southern Compressed Coal Company. The ad featured a slanted bowtie, which looked a lot like what would become the Chevy logo. But is it possible that William and Catherine came across this ad a year later, three states away?
The flag of Switzerland theory
One final theory is that the Chevy logo is an artist’s interpretation of the Swiss flag. This would be because of the company’s other co-founder, Louis Chevrolet, who started the company with Durant in 1911. Chevrolet (the man) was born in Switzerland on Christmas Day in 1878. The flag of Switzerland features a white cross on a red background. A version of the Chevy logo that appeared in print advertisements from 1957 to 1959 actually used the same color scheme.
So there you have it, four interpretations of one of the world’s most famous car logos. Which do you believe? Let us know in the comments section below.
To learn about more car logos, visit AAA.com/LogoLegends.