We at Monocle are pretty familiar with what a great mascot can do. For brands, towns, whole countries even, the right sort of furry, feathered or fine-featured friend can speak volumes. Here at Midori House and in our global outposts you might have seen Monochan and Shibachan representing us to good effect. These giant-headed ambassadors are great at getting the message out there.
They’re a popular choice at sporting stadiums too, presumably for similar reasons: embodying the best characteristics of their masters and providing a bridge to the community. So what to make of the new mascot at Scottish Premier League football club Partick Thistle? Designed by the artist and Jags’ fan David Shrigley, the club’s new mascot is Kingsley; in Shrigley’s words “a sketchy sun with arms and legs”. That description doesn’t really do justice to the warped, mono-browed, jaundiced, buck-toothed swine of a mascot that Shrigley has created in tribute to the club and its new sponsors, Kingsford Capital.
The artist believes that Kingsley will intimidate opposing sides when they pitch up at Firhill Park. It’s certainly a canny bit of PR for Kingsford Capital, a US investment firm whose boss, Mike Wilkins, knew Shrigley thanks to his interest in contemporary art and was brought around to the idea of lending his support to Thistle – financially and metaphorically – by the artist.
So not only do Partick profit from Kingsford’s largesse and Kingsley’s menace, they also get a bona fide contemporary-art masterpiece to adorn their stage. And this is only the start, with other art-world luminaries apparently set to follow Shrigley’s lead and bring even more culture to a stretch of turf that – the odd Alan (Hansen or Rough) apart – hasn’t been blessed with the most cultured players down the years.
Kingsley’s frightful visage might differ quite profoundly from the cuddlier, more approachable mascots that are well known and loved around the world. The expo in this past March edition of Monocle magazine documented but a handful of Japan’s incredible band of municipal and government departmental mascots who are bridges between sometimes faceless bureaucracies and the public.
Partick Thistle’s divergence from these norms isn’t a problem; it shows how much fertile ground there is still to be furrowed by institutions creative and witty enough to push the envelope a little further. I’d like to see more madcap mascots joining the oversized plush toys that we’re familiar with. I’m off to order my Kingsley outfit now. If nothing else I know I’ll scare the living daylights out of Monochan at the next Monocle event.
Tom Edwards is the executive producer of Monocle 24.