French Fry Guy
The garish colours and exaggerated features make the French Fry Guy a bizarre and intriguing mascot. Probably the most unusual aspect about him, apart from the dodgy eye which could actually be an attempt at a wink is the fact that he’s eating a chip from his head in what maybe considered self-cannibalism.
The ‘French Fry Guy’ is a mascot I’ve seen more than any other but it’s history and origin aren’t well documented. The first time I saw the character was in 2003 at the Glastonbury festival, it was a mini-version which stood on the counter of a van selling chips and burgers. I soon started spotting him on travels around Europe and to seaside towns in England. After contacting the ‘Food Museum‘ I was told he originated from either Belgium, The Netherlands or Northern France. In these countries a typical fast food dish is a cornet of chips. It was customary to have a sign outside the shop usually of a chef holding a cornet of fries. To simplify the sign the chef was dispensed and the cornet of chips was turned into a character. The next logical step was to turn the character into a 3d fibreglass mascot, thus the ‘French Fry Guy’ was born.
The French Fry Guy isn’t the only chip mascot around, I’ve included a few of my favourites which I’ve found on flickr; including the long legged, armless chip-man and a moustached monstrosity! If you’d like to see more photos of the character there is a small flickr group dedicated to him called the crazy french fries guy, there are also two other groups that collect self-cannibalistic mascots; scary beings eating themselves and cut me, wicked servant.
It’s not unusual for mascots to be used in art, Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Takeshi Murakami and many other contemporary artists have all referenced characters in their work playing with ideas of commercialism and pop culture, mixing high brow with what many consider low brow. On a recent visit to Tate Britain I saw the ‘Rude Britannia’ exhibition. One of the most compelling, fun and bizarre pieces of art on display was a sculptural piece titled ‘Death to the Fascist fruitboys’ by artists Shaun Doyle & Mally Mallinson. In the sculptural piece the main subject is none other than ‘French Fry guy’ or as the artists call him Chipboy. I recently sent an email to Shaun and Mally and asked them a few questions.
Can you tell me about the idea behind the sculptures?
Death to the Fascist Fruitboys is a sequel to the original Fascist Fruitboys of 2005 in this piece Chipboy (that’s what we nicknamed him!) is getting a good kicking by a bunch of skinheads (fruitboys being a play on bootboys) made from fruit and veg. The idea for the sculpture came from a place mat bought from a poundstore with images of heads made from vegetables but rather badly done, this appealed to our aesthetic – we saw them as poundstore Archimboldos! At the time much was being made in the media about five a day fruit and veg consumption, Jamie Olivers’ school dinner crusade, the demonising of the dreaded turkey twizzler and the scenes of school children desperately handing money through the school fence for mothers to buy them bags of chips in some kind of fucked up parody of a refugee or concentration camp…
In the Tate piece Death to the Fascist Fruitboys the Chipboy is getting his revenge and coming to the aid of his ‘Sausage-Boy’ friend based on another mascot also seen on the streets of Holland, the sausage piece has quite overt sexual overtones and looks fairly perverse lying in a pool of his own ketchup
When and where did you first see the ‘French Fry Guy’?
We first spied him on Old Compton street with his slightly wonky winking face (i do find him a tad creepy), as an advocate of fast and unhealthy food he seemed to be the ideal adversary for the Fascist Fruitboys. We managed to combine our interest in the high and low brow, youth culture and social comment into one piece of sculpture, since then we have spied our fry guy friend in different countries, he seems quite popular in the low countries. We have also seen small versions that sit on the counter notably in my mother in laws’ local chippy in Stoke-on-Trent.
Thanks to flickr user farmsoundracer for the thumbnail image.