The History of and Story Behind the American Eagle Logo

American Eagle

American Eagle Outfitters is a retailer that specializes in apparel, accessories, and related products. Generally speaking, it is aimed at both high school students and university students. However, it is interesting to note that this wasn’t always American Eagle Outfitters’ core market. For those who are unfamiliar, the retailer was founded by the Silverman family, which believed that it needed to diversify from its existing focus on menswear through its existing retailer. However, American Eagle Outfitters grew so much in the 1980s that they decided to get rid of everything else to focus on it in 1989. Unfortunately, the retailer ran into some serious problems, with the result that it saw a change of ownership as well as a change of focus. Something that has seen it through to the present time.

How Has the American Eagle Logo Changed Over Time?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, American Eagle Outfitters logo has made much use of eagle symbolism. As a result, it is worth mentioning something about eagle symbolism before moving on to the retailer’s use of it.

Numerous cultures have made use of eagle symbolism. However, the western use of it can be traced to the Romans. In short, the highest of the Roman gods was Jupiter, whose most prominent sacred animal was the eagle. Thanks to this, the eagle took on connotations of power in Roman culture. For instance, the Roman legions once used a number of animals such as boars, bulls, and wolves on their standards. However, when the Roman general Marius reformed the Roman military by recruiting from the urban poor rather than small landholders, he gave every single one of the Roman legions an eagle standard. Something that became synonymous with the honor of the soldiers who marched behind it.

The Western Roman Empire lasted until 476 AD, while the Eastern Roman Empire lasted until 1453 AD. Combined, they exercised a huge influence on their neighbors as well as their successors. For proof, look no further than the fact that everything from the term “emperor” to the titles “Kaiser” and “Tzar” can be traced to Latin roots. In the first case, emperor comes from the Latin imperator, which once indicated a Roman commander who had earned the right to hold a military triumph but went on to become exclusive to the emperor under the Roman Empire. Meanwhile, both Kaiser and Tzar come from Caesar, a name that became so associated with imperial power that it became an imperial title in its own right. Other elements of Roman culture made their way into other cultures as well, particularly once Europe had become enamored with the Classical period in the early modern era.

In North America, that which would become the United States took on a number of symbols. For instance, the female personification called Columbia was well-established by the time of the American Revolution, though she sees little use in the present time because of the popularity of both Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam. However, since the United States was inspired in part by the Roman Republic, it is perhaps unsurprising that it would take on the Roman eagle as well in spite of Benjamin Franklin’s famous preference for the turkey. Of course, the American eagle is very much its own thing rather than a one-for-one copy of the Roman eagle, as shown by how it is based on a bald eagle to represent its location in the New World.

Naturally, the first version of the American Eagle Outfitters logo included the American eagle. However, it was a relatively small part of a relatively cluttered visual. The most prominent part was “American Eagle,” which was rendered using bolded letters that bore very clear serifs. Furthermore, these letters were presented on top of the swell of a hill, meaning that those towards the center had to be smaller to fit in. The hill itself doubled as a banner while sitting over an eagle flying before the sun, which in turn, was situated over a fancy rendition of “Outfitters” on a long bar. Combined, the logo was very messy. However, it did manage to convey something of a sense of the outdoors, which made sense because the retailer originally had a strong emphasis on products meant for use in outdoor activities.

In 1985, American Eagle Outfitters switched over to a new logo that was much simpler in nature. This time, it consisted of an eagle over “American Eagle Outfitters.” However, the new eagle was much more visible than its predecessor, not least because it was no longer crammed into a confined space but now permitted to dominate like so many other depictions of eagles. Besides that, it is worth mentioning one other major change to the position of the eagle. Both versions were depicted of the bird in flight, which was much more true-to-life than the more stylized representations of such birds. The difference is that the first eagle was soaring before the sun whereas the second eagle looked as though it was about to descend upon something in its sight, thus giving it not just a much more dynamic impression but also a much fiercer impression. Similarly, the new rendition of “American Eagle Outfitters” was much more utilitarian, though it would be a case of serious exaggeration to say that it has no embellishment whatsoever. Regardless, the two components of the new logo worked together to good effect. The removal of the other elements increased the focus upon them. Furthermore, their simpler presentation enabled them to make a stronger impression than what something more cluttered could have managed.

Variations

There has been minor variations on the aforementioned logo. However, American Eagle Outfitters has switched over to something even simpler in very recent times. For those who are curious, its latest logo is now literally just the words “American Eagle” placed over the word “Outfitters,” with the former being bigger and the latter being smaller. One could make the argument that this is a discarding of the single most iconic element of the American Eagle Outfitters logo. However, one could also make the argument that this is a sign that the retailer believes its brand to be powerful enough that it no longer needs an actual eagle in the logo, thus turning it into a statement of confidence. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see how long this logo will last, which will presumably reflect the still changing focus of the retailer in the modern era.

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