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What Are Lapel Pins Used For?: The Lapel Pin Origins


Lapel pins have become something of a fashion statement piece in recent years. You can adorn your denim jackets, your backpacks, even your hats, with all sorts of Pins that display whatever message you’d like to be conveyed.

Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first time in history that people have used adornment to display a message. It may not have been so obvious, but its message was very clear to those who knew what it meant.


Flower Power!

Before lapel pins, there were boutonnieres- French for “Buttonhole Flower.” As you might have discerned, these were flowers that people would poke down into the lapel buttonhole of a suit coat. 

They date back to the 16th century and were used for more superstitious reasons than decorative- warding off diseases and bad stenches. By the 18th century, however, it became a fashion statement, especially for the French. In fact, during the French revolution, a red carnation tucked in the buttonhole of a nobleman headed for the scaffold was a symbol of fearlessness.

The Romantic Movement, which was popular during the 19th Century, used boutonnieres to add color and accessories for men’s clothing, among other accessories. By this time, men’s clothing colors were very restrained.

Along the same line as boutonnieres, corsages were a small arrangement of flowers meant for women. They’re mostly used at formal events now, such as proms and homecomings at high schools or weddings. They were pinned to dresses or blouses, but now they are generally tied to the wrist.


Campaign Buttons!

The earliest button could be tied to President Abraham Lincoln in 1861- his button was made of a ferrotype, which was a photograph consisting of tin, dark enamel, or lacquer. It had his face on one side and a locking pin on the other side.

However, the first mass-produced pin was not until 1896, when William McKinley ran against William Jennings Bryan. After that, the game was on, and campaign buttons became a regular thing with the presidential elections. Slogans such as “I Like Ike!”, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”, “Don’t change horses midstream” were keys to campaigns because of their short and straight-to-the-point method of displaying their policies, what they stand for, or what they intend to do.

There’s even an exhibit you can look at in the Smithsonian Institute that displays all of the campaign buttons over the past several decades!


Flag Pins and Pins in Politics

(We’ve covered this subject before in another blog, but we’re going to briefly breeze over it in this one.)
Politicians are at the forefront of media quite often. From their policies to their family life, to what they wear, everything they do and say in front of the camera is being analyzed by many, many people.

Since about the 1950s, politicians have taken advantage of this knowledge and sported different sorts of lapel pins on their coats.
One of the earliest forms of this was President Harry Truman wearing his masonic pin on his lapel. After him, President Lyndon Johnson, who wore a silver star, notifying others that he won a Silver Star Medal during World War Two.

The first president to actually wear an American flag pin was President Richard Nixon, who donned it during the Vietnam War. However, after his onslaught of scandals, there was a certain feeling of the tradition being sullied.

After 9/11, the tide had turned, and President George W. Bush practically made it mandatory for his staff to wear flag pins. Since then, it has been very popular for those involved in politics to don a flag lapel pin, regardless of whether they were elected or candidates.

During the Clinton Administration, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright was famed for wearing any lapel pin that suited her mood during her meetings. Her assorted lapel pin collection can be found in the Smithsonian Institute.


In Conclusion

“Why should I buy a lapel pin?”
Why shouldn’t you buy lapel pins? They can be used for so many things in your corporation! They can be used to show your appreciation for your employees, as prizes in competitions, to celebrate achievements, among just a sample of reasons!

We hope this article was equally entertaining and educational. There’s more to lapel pins than just being metal and hanging off your clothes- they have so much history behind them.

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