Why is Captain Zig Zag an icon of stoners?

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The tobacco industry has the Marlboro cowboy. Cannabis lovers have the Zig-Zag zouave.

Over the years, Zig-Zag rolling papers have become synonymous with a smooth, slow burning experience. You know exactly what time it is when your friend pulls out the iconic bright orange wrapper with the mustachioed man on the front. But have you ever wondered who this man is and where he comes from?

A brief history

To understand the Zig-Zag man, aka Captain Zig-Zag, let’s go back to the origins of the brand. Founded in 1855 by Frenchmen Maurice and Jacques Braunstein, the Zig-Zag brand introduced a convenient new way to roll tobacco products with specially designed paper.

The duo quickly found success and, in a few years, they managed to perfect a packaging process that allows the papers to automatically come out of a booklet, one by one, in the shape of a “z”: hence the name Zig -Zag. The brand then patented the process and this invention earned it a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900.

However, its slim design and ingenious packaging weren’t the only things that caught the eye – many wondered who the dashing man was on the cover of every rolling paper brochure.

The truth is that the Zig-Zag Man himself is part of folklore. Legend has it that Captain Zig-Zag, a Zouave soldier, was in the midst of battle when his clay pipe was pulled and broke in his hands. Seriously in need of a smoke, he decided to try rolling tobacco using a piece of paper torn from a musket cartridge. Little did he know that at the headquarters of Sevastopol, his most prized achievement would be rolling the cigarette that inspired a whole generation of smokers.

The Zig Zag Zouave

The Zig Zag Zouave

Thanks to the slow combustion of the leaves and their ease of gluing, Captain Zig-Zag has made cannabis history with a very well-known brand among stoners. As the brand experimented with other looks and figureheads, the famous bearded man became an integral part of its image and success.

The ZIG ZAG sheet is made of a natural gum arabic. Hemp and linen are the two components of this sheet, guaranteed without any chemical agent.

The Evolution of Captain Zig-Zag

With over 140 years under its belt, Captain Zig-Zag has gone through many iterations and been transformed over and over until it got the iconic neon look we know and love. Let’s take a closer look at how he became the charming and almost hip captain of today.


Although the company was founded several years ago, the Zouave soldier we know as the “Zig-Zag man” did not appear on the packaging until 1879. The intricate image paid homage to the ever-full soldier of resources that inspired a DIY movement.


The year that changed everything: In 1894, the Braunstein brothers perfected and patented their “z”-shaped packaging method. They call the new product “Zig-Zag” in reference to the unique shape that the intertwined papers take when extracted from the packaging. Still in use today, each booklet is made using the same revolutionary process.


In 1900, Zig-Zag papers achieved international fame when they received a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Six years later, Zig-Zag is registered as a trademark and is enjoying success in almost every corner of the world.


In the classic form of “do first, ask forgiveness later”, the Zig-Zag logo is used to design a poster for a show in San Francisco at the Avalon ballroom for Big Brother, The Holding Company ( Janis Joplin), and Quicksilver Messenger Service in the summer of 1966.

Although the creators of the poster didn’t bother to get official copyright clearance, they did take the time to include a quote at the bottom of the poster: “What you don’t not know about copying and duplicating will not hurt you. » Lesson learned.


In 1969, the Captain Zig-Zag campaign was created and our captain was born. Depicted similarly to the Uncle Sam propaganda poster, the Zig-Zag Man poses with the quote “Captain Zig-Zag Wants YOU!” » below. While the campaign didn’t last long, Captain Zig-Zag’s name stuck around for good.

Captain Zig ZagCaptain Zig Zag

Captain Zig Zag


In 1986, the Bolloré group bought Zig-Zag, among other things, which it sold in 2000 to Républic Technologies.


To cement their place in pop culture, Dr. Dre released his first solo album “Chronicle” with a tribute to the Zig-Zag rolling paper on the album cover. The image shows a depiction of himself in the golden frame of Zig-Zag, ready to smoke from the Chronic.

Dr. Dre and Captain Zig ZagDr. Dre and Captain Zig Zag

Dr. Dre and Captain Zig Zag


Today, Zig-Zag proudly sells a wide range of rolling papers and smoking accessories, with the same ingenious soldier drawn on every pack. He now appears to be sporting a slouch beanie and an impressive mustache, clearly trying to fit in with his new circle of stoner friends – but no matter what he wears or how he styles his facial hair, we still know his face represents nearly 150 years of quality rolling.

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