Indeed, Windsor is truly a pet favorite in the contraband merch world. It’s been used a few times by Boot Boyz, the sneaky tri-streetwear brand that turns mid-century academic totems into advanced fashion. Windsor is also literally in the logo of Jam, a brand run by artist and designer Sam Jayne. Jayne loves the font because of its quirkiness – it features a ‘hand drawn human element’. He uses it all the time in his other career, as a graphic designer. When he started Jam, using Windsor was a natural decision – he had personality.
Maybe Windsor exploded because of what it does not represent: the refined minimalism of high technology. To signify its forward-looking approach, companies in Silicon Valley have historically turned to Swiss Modernism, a responsible design movement of Helvetica, that simpler-than-simple typeface that you can find both in the New York subway and the Microsoft logo used from the 1980s through the early 2010s. Windsor, on the other hand, looks hand-drawn and cushy, in direct opposition to the sleek minimalism of the Silicon Valley. If using Helvetica is like sitting in an Eames chair, outfitting your group poster in Windsor is like lying on a shag rug while wearing nothing but a pair of velvet bell bottoms. Stephen Coles, editorial director of the San Francisco-based Letterform Archive, calls it “the corduroy of the police.”
Coles explained that Windsor, and similar fonts, often emerge in response to minimalism trends that are associated with new technology and waves of modernization. He assesses the cycle every 50 years or so. Windsor was first developed by the Stephenson Blake foundry in 1905. It emerged from the Arts & Crafts movement, born in England during the rise of industrialization. The designers of Art & Crafts feared that the production of machines would destroy the craft. The movement had socialist foundations and valued the individual’s ability to beautify the world and the home. If you look at it correctly, Windsor’s deliberately handcrafted aesthetic feels almost anti-capitalist.
While Windsor was first created in response to fears of overindustrialization, it reappeared in the 1960s and 1970s, alongside concepts such as eating a macrobiotic diet, living in a kibbutz, and general frustration with Man in gray flannel suit-era capitalism. In addition to appearing in the Whole Earth catalog, Windsor has appeared on several record covers and appeared on an iconic pro-Angela Davis premieres poster. It has also been, obviously, widely used in advertising – perhaps its most infamous use of the past 50 years is in the title cards of Woody Allen films.
Windsor’s reappearance in recent years makes perfect sense. It has been 50 years since he last saturated the market. Big tech cynicism is at an all time high. A striking number of young Americans identify as socialists.
Ultimately, no one has ownership of a typeface. For each Whole Earth Catalog– style post with Windsor on the cover, there was also a cigarette company using the font. In 2021, there are a lot of pirated t-shirt makers and craft beer companies using Windsor, but it’s also being used in derivative formats to trick you into buying Chobani. We are already heading in the direction where Windsor is so overused that people are starting to get tired of it. You can only have too many good things, if you even want to call it that. Soon it will probably be gone – if only for about fifty years. Windsor has a way of coming back.
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