A cigarette holder is a fashion accessory, a slender tube in which a cigarette is held for smoking. Most frequently made of silver, jade or bakelite (popular in the past but now wholly replaced by modern plastics), cigarette holders were considered an essential part of ladies' fashion from the mid-1910s through the early-1970s.
Cigarette holders range from the simplest single material constructs to incredibly ornate styles with complex inlays of metal and gemstones. Rarer examples of these can be found in enamel, horn, tortoise shell, or more precious materials such as amber and ivory.
As with evening gloves, ladies' cigarette holders are measured by four traditional formal standard lengths:
- opera length, usually 16 to 20 inches/40 to 50 cm
- theatre length, 10 to 14 inches/25 to 35 cm
- dinner length, 4 to 6 inches/10 to 15 cm
- cocktail length, which includes shorter holders
Traditionally, men's cigarette holders were no more than 4 inches long
The holder was also used as a practical accessory, as before the advent of filtered cigarettes in the 1960s, the holder served several purposes. A holder kept tobacco flakes out of the smoker's mouth, kept the thin cigarette paper from sticking and tearing on the smoker's lips, prevented nicotine stains on fingers, cooled and mellowed the smoke and kept side-stream smoke from stinging the smoker's eyes. Occasionally the holder would be built to encase a filter for taste and later, health reasons. Though modern cigarettes are generally manufactured with an existing filter, filtered cigarette holders are occasionally used as a secondary filtration system, and to prevent nicotine staining of the fingers.
Well-known women who used cigarette holders include Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Jayne Mansfield, Jacqueline Kennedy, Rita Hayworth, Princess Margaret, Wendy Richard, Madalena Barbosa, Louise Brooks, Cleo Trumbo and Ayn Rand. Scarlett Johansson is a contemporary example.
Among the best-known men who used cigarette holders were Franklin D. Roosevelt, Terry-Thomas, Enrico Caruso, Vladimir Horowitz, Ian Fleming, Noël Coward, Hunter S. Thompson (though he regarded his as only a filter), Tennessee Williams, Fulgencio Batista, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Josip Broz Tito, and Hans von Bülow.
Holders can be seen in period films like Titanic, and are immortalized in films of the 1950s and 1960s. Holly Golightly, the naïve and eccentric café society girl in the iconic 1961 classic Breakfast at Tiffany's who is portrayed by Audrey Hepburn, is famously seen carrying an oversized cigarette holder; the image of Hepburn wearing the famous Givenchy little black dress, with the foot-long cigarette holder in her hand, is considered one of the most iconic images of 20th century American cinema. Lucille Ball can be seen using one in certain episodes of I Love Lucy. In Troop Beverly Hills Shelly Long's character is seen throughout the movie using one. Cruella de Vil is seen using one repeatedly in the 1961 animated Disney film, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and in the 1996 remake portrayed by Glenn Close. Margo Lane (portrayed by Penelope Ann Miller) used one in The Shadow, as did Jade in Jonny Quest. Comedienne Phyllis Diller had a stage persona which included holding a long cigarette holder from which she pretended to smoke (though she was a nonsmoker in real life).
Fictional Peter Pan character Captain Hook possessed a unique double-holder, which allowed him to smoke two cigars (not cigarettes) at once. Batman's nemesis The Penguin also commonly used a cigarette holder in the comics and the 1960s television series, as well as in the live-action film Batman Returns. Johnny Depp uses a cigarette holder in his role as Raoul Duke (alter ego of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson) in the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In cartoons, the Pink Panther, Colonel Sponsz from The Adventures of Tintin, and Jade from Jonny Quest use cigarette holders. In the 101 Dalmatians animated and live-action films, Cruella De Vil, the villainess, is often seen with a cigarette holder.
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