Letter of Recommendation: Bumper Stickers

Liam H. Flake, News Director

I received my car with two bumper stickers included. Passed from mother to son after many years of faithful service, the Pilot sported the Odell’s Brewing logo and a simple sticker that read in white lettering, “LONG LIVE LOUIS.”

The former, of course, recognized my dear mother’s preferences in local beer, a Fort Collins commodity which she has grown to be quite a connoisseur of.

The second, though, held a deeper message. It paid homage to a musician that she loved, the artist for which she gave her youngest child his middle name. It was simple, white lettering on a plain black background, but captured an era in my mom’s life and the impact of jazz upon her.  

Shortly after my sixteenth birthday, the car became mine to use, a generous gift from my parents, and it didn’t take me long to add stickers of my own. I started with only a few—an endorsement of free press, the emblem of my college of choice, and a couple others—but it did not take long to decide that moderation was not the approach for me. I started slapping on bumper stickers from wherever I could find them: travels, personal affiliations, local establishments, and more.

A few became several, and soon the rear window of my vehicle was covered with bumper stickers of all shapes, sizes, and origins. From Bigfoot to donut shops to the Zoroaster Temple, they weave a tapestry of experience. They distinguish my car from a distance, and give my parents concern about my visibility when driving. However, their truest purpose is a statement of individuality.

Bumper stickers are often created as gimmicks, jokes, and advertisements, but have the capacity to become an expression of identity. Like sticking a button on a jacket, a bumper sticker says to the individual and the world: THIS IS A PART OF WHO I AM. In this sense, they can nonchalantly string together beliefs, aspirations, occupations, and experiences into a simple and unscrutinized collage. In a quiet and modest manner, bumper stickers are a declaration of self.

My mother’s new car, a 2017 version of the same model as my own, now sports a Van Halen sticker and the ubiquitous FRHS band sticker that seems to adorn half of the cars in the Fossil Ridge parking lot. In examination of these, a point becomes evident: in the ten some years between the purchase of the two Honda Pilots, my mother has changed as a person. While she retains her previous sentiments, her automobile now reflects her love of a band that she grew to love in high school and the organization that her daughter has dedicated a great deal of time and effort to.

Bumper stickers are a declaration of self.”

— Liam H. Flake

You don’t have to stand on a rooftop and shout out your life or write a memoir to tell your story; sometimes it can be as simple as a small piece of vinyl on a rear windshield.