It’s a human sensation; we are drawn to fire. This has been true since before man produced the first flame. There is something dangerous and alluring about it; when you’re around a fire, you can’t help but stare into it. It seems natural, then, that a lighter could be a style accessory, a hallmark of cool. It seems natural, but, it was Zippo that made this a reality.

Yes, the sleek, simple design of the Zippo makes it appealing. The flick of the hinged top and the click as the flame rushes through the chimney carry the same macho burst that you feel from the revving of a motorcycle engine. But, Zippo’s arrival as a cultural icon wasn’t just about the virtues of the product itself. The Zippo became cool largely in part because it was the intersection of a few key cultural moments in American history.

Follow Brenden on Twitter here.