Who invented the Playboy Bunny?

Hugh Hefner inspecting a new design for the Bunny costume at the Chicago Playboy Mansion.Hugh Hefner invented the Playboy Bunny. Playboy magazine had run a pictorial article on Chicago's Gaslight Club. In response to that article, over 3,000 readers letters flooded into the Playboy office asking how they could join this exclusive key club.

Victor Lownes, a Playboy Executive suggested to Hefner that Playboy should open a night club of it's own. Hefner immediately saw the commercial and promotional benefits. But also the personal ones: it is good for the ego to sit in your own nightclub as King Playboy.

Plans for a Playboy Club were begun in 1959. But the beautiful Bunny was not yet born. Seeking to maximize on the image Playboy was most famous for, it's Playmates, initial talk centred on dressing the Playboy Club's hostesses in revealing negligees and calling them 'Playmates'. But during a night-out, Victor Lownes' then girlfriend, Ilse Taurins, suggested to Hefner the idea of dressing the hostesses in the image of the tuxedoed Playboy Rabbit character. This Rabbit, personifying the Playboy lifestyle and the magazine's ethos, had featured on Playboy covers and in advertising spreads. Hefner answered that he had already considered the idea of Playboy Bunnies, but had disregarded it as 'too masculine.' Ilse said her mother, a seamstress, could run up a prototype female rabbit costume for Hefner to inspect.

A few days later Ilse stood before Hefner, Lownes and a few other key executives, wearing the prototype Bunny costume her mother had made. The effect was astounding. Hefner in a flash knew that he had his hostess uniform at last (he was particularly smitten by the tail). And so, after many refinements to the design of the costume, when the first Playboy Club opened it was staffed by the most famous icons of the Sexual Revolution and a legend was born - The Playboy Bunny.

But the Bunny may never have been born at all!

Forget Darwin, this is evolution!

In one of those strange twists of fate in life that retrospectively seem inevitable (or perhaps it is divine intervention?) the Rabbit character was a result of a fortuitous late name change. Hefner originally intended to call his magazine "Stag Party" with a human stag character as a company mascot, designed by cartoonist Arv Miller. But before the first issue came out, "Stag" magazine claimed trademark infringement. Unwilling to lose time in litigation, Hefner renamed his magazine PLAYBOY and chose a new symbol. Arv Miller transformed his stag to a rabbit. Founding Art Director Arthur (Art) Paul then created the world-famous Rabbit Head logo.

Hefner has wryly stated in many interviews that had this last-minute name change not occurred there would have been no Bunny Empire since it is impossible to imagine that there would have existed a chain of successful nightclubs around the world with girls wearing antlers on their heads!

"Doe Girls" just does not have the same ring. Although antlers may have proved useful when dealing with the wandering hands of keyholders.

The Playboy Bunny costume is the only non-service uniform to have been granted a U.S. Patent. The Smithsonian and the Chicago Historical Society both have Bunny costumes on display.

For more on the origins and development of the Bunny see our History section.

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