Stanley's Boot Laces

Here, the company is associating itself with not just one rugged imperial legend but with a much wider imperial ideology. Stanley was famous for his celebrated search and discovery of Livingstone in deepest, darkest Africa. This appeal to rugged living and the outdoors would have been enough for many manufacturers of products such as boot laces. But focusing on Stanley would have also brought associations with the messianic righteousness and quest for knowledge that was so epitomized by Livingstone. Livingstone really was a superstar of his day and age and it was precisely for this reason that Stanley went looking for him. And sure enough, Livingstone had fame and admiration enough for the both of them. The image of the white men (with their guns) meeting the noble savage (without guns) would have been an image that would have sat quite easily with the intended target market. To the Victorians, it was obvious that the white man had dominion over the other coloured peoples, but that they still had an obligation to go and take christianity and civilisation to these poor peoples. This image therefore associates outdoor ruggedness, messianic obligation, power, exoticism and the pursuance of knowledge all with a humble bootlace.

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by Stephen Luscombe