You probably only think about 7-Eleven if you’re in the mood for some late-night munchies or a Slurpee. You definitely don’t contemplate the details of its fluorescent sign. It’s a big red and orange seven. The only thing it could possibly mean is cheap junk food available whenever you want it.
But once you take a good, hard look at this convenience store’s unmistakable logo, you become consumed by grammatical and typographical conundrums.
The company’s legal name is 7-Eleven. Why not 7-11 or even Seven-Eleven? The latter would be more annoying to write, sure, but at least the style would be consistent. VII XI would be an equally viable option at that point. Then there’s the name itself. Wouldn’t 24-7 (excuse us, 24-Seven) be a more appropriate name for an establishment that’s open 24/7? And why, for the love of all that is good and pure in this world, is the N in Eleven not capitalized like the rest of the word?
Turns out, there are real explanations for (almost) all of these observations, straight from 7-Eleven, Inc.
In 1937, Southland Ice Company started selling grocery staples and beer out of its icehouses. Business grew so dramatically that the company turned these icehouses into “convenience stops” called Tote’m stores, named as such to invite customers to “tote” away their spoils. The stores’ logo used a large totem pole as the T.
By 1946, Southland had several shops under the names Tote’m and City Ice and wanted to give all of its stores a common name. It was Tracy-Locke Advertising that chose the famed “7-11” to reflect the stores new extended hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Confused? It wasn’t until 1963 that stores adopted the hours we know today. A location near the University of Texas decided to stay open past 11 to accommodate students shopping after a late football game. Sales boomed, and the store decided to stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The rest of the company followed suit.
With this new name came a new logo: a large red “7” with “Eleven” spelled out and running through the numeral (visually similar to Tote’m’s totem pole T, but 7-Eleven, Inc. doesn’t know if this connection was intentional), all placed over a green four-leaf clover to symbolize good luck and good fortune. And for the record, “Eleven” had all capital letters.
So why was 7 a numeral and 11 wasn’t? 7-Eleven, Inc. tells Reader’s Digest exclusively, “The specific reason is unknown.” Womp.
However, we do have some clarity about the logo’s other notable details. Southland president Joe C. “Jodie” Thompson requested a new design that would stand on outdoor signs, which is why you don’t associate four-leaf clovers with Slurpees. Here are 7 more things 7-Eleven never told you about Slurpees.
Then, of course, there’s the mildly infuriating lowercase N in the otherwise capitalized Eleven. “One theory is that Thompson’s wife thought the logo seemed a little harsh with all capital letters and suggested that the capital ‘N’ be changed to lowercase so the logo would look more graceful,” 7-Eleven, Inc. tells Reader’s Digest.
So there you have it. You will never be able to absentmindedly pass a 7-Eleven sign ever again. Next, check out these 12 other famous logos that are hiding secret messages.