Aga: From Personal Necessity to Status Symbol
A quintessential symbol of wealthy English households and farmhouses, the Aga has enjoyed unparalleled brand recognition as the king of heat-storage cooking for over 70 years.
No kitchen appliance has reached the level of “status symbol” in quite the same way, and to give them due credit, the longevity of the cookers is incomparable: the Hett family of West Sussex won a competition held in 2009 to find the oldest working Aga, with a model that had been in continuous use since 1932.
Fans love its ease of use, reliability, style and versatility, whilst critics point out its tendency to stay hot in the middle of summer, as well as its spectacular inefficiency (a small Aga uses the same amount of energy in a week that a traditional oven does in nine months).
Most of us are aware of the Aga’s cultural significance in upper-middle class homes, but fewer know about the history behind them.
When Swedish Nobel Prize-winning industrialist Nils Gustaf Dalén lost his sight in an acetylene explosion, he spent much more time inside his house, and realised how much effort his wife Elma put into tending to their old-fashioned oven. He was inspired to create a cooker that didn’t require constant attention, and used his expertise in heat storage to create the perma-hot cooker we know today.
Over the next two decades, demand for Aga cookers skyrocketed, with the waiting list for a new machine rising to 6 months in the 1940s. By the late 1950’s, the brand had established itself as the desirable “heart of the house” of wealthy homes, and became available in a range of colours to suit the style of the times.
Later on, solid fuel saw a decline in popularity, with the rise of more convenient energy sources such as gas.
Aga soon followed suit, with the first gas model being released in 1968
This model was the first to feature the now iconic black logo, which is still used today. Electric models were introduced in 1985, by which point more than 8,000 Aga cookers were sold every year. At the turn of the millennium, free-standing electric models were available, and the company began to turn to the American market.
In the last five years, Aga has continued to innovate, and has finally addressed the cooker’s serious and long-standing issue of efficiency, by introducing the “Aga Dual Control” model which features a low energy setting, as well as the ability to turn the cooker off completely. Further models introduced futuristic features such as the option to control your cooker’s heat using a laptop or smartphone.
Aga’s divide opinion and will presumably continue to do so for decades to come, but in an era where appliances are rarely built to last, it’s difficult to deny the appeal of a brand that measures the lifespan of its products in decades rather than years.
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