Zig-Zag is a brand of cigarette rolling papers that was founded by the Braunstein brothers in Paris in 1879. Zig-Zags quickly gained a reputation for high quality and the business grew rapidly. The Braunsteins won a gold medal for their papers at the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris, the same event for which the Eiffel Tower was built.
The Zig-Zag package has a distinctive red and black, or red, blue and black brand image in woodcut print style that depicts a very manly man enjoying a smoke. The man was variously known as Pierre, Boris or le zouave. He is wearing the uniform of a zouave, which was a French Algerian light infantryman of the day. Nowadays he is known simply as the Zig-Zag man among stoners in the US(or at least 'back in the day'). One legend has it that Pierre invented paper-rolled cigarettes during the Battle of Sebastopol, after his pipe had been destroyed by a bullet while he was enjoying a toke. That is an excellent story, to be sure, but one must note, however, that the Rizla company was marketing rolling papers in 1660, almost 200 years before the Battle of Sebastopol.
Zig-Zag does have an honest distinction, however, as the first company to introduce interleaved packing. The papers are folded in Z shapes with the bottom end of one Z tucked into the top end of the Z below it. That's where the name really comes from. The advantage is that pulling out one paper from the pack also pulls out just enough of the next paper for easy gripping. This is now expected behavior for facial tissues in boxes and packets.
The name Zig-Zag and the Zig-Zag man became icons of the drug culture of the 1960's in the US, because Zig-Zags were an early favorite for rolling joints. The Zig-zag dominance was soon challenged by a proliferation of rolling papers of various colors, sizes and flavors, with double-wide models being particularly popular. None of them, however, ever attained the cachet of Zig-zag.