If you’ve ever seen a small metal or enamel pin stuck to someone’s suit jacket, coat, or even dress, and you’ve wondered what it was, chances are you were looking at a lapel pin. Lapel pins are small, decorative accessories traditionally worn on the lapel – the folded flaps of fabric found immediately below the collar and above the buttons on formal attire. While normally worn at life’s most formal events as a way to add personality or unmissable flair to an outfit, lapel pins are making their way into casual everyday wear as an accessory for showing off affiliations, interests, and passions.
3 Categories Behind What Lapel Pins Can Represent
Lapel pins come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and designs – from classic floral and flag designs to intricate creations showing everything from your favorite sports team or cartoon characters to pop culture references. While there are endless possibilities when it comes to lapel pin design, they generally fall into 3 categories of representation.
- Identification Lapel Pins: this is the most common type of lapel pin which is worn to show affiliation with a particular organization. This could be anything from a company or club to a school, country, or religion. Identification lapel pins often feature the logo or symbol of the organization they represent and are usually worn on the lapel of a suit jacket or coat.
- Ornamental Lapel Pins: ornamental lapel pins are worn purely for decorative purposes and don’t necessarily represent any affiliation. These types of lapel pins can be anything from a small, simple design to an intricate work of art, and are often given as gifts or souvenirs. Ornamental lapel pins are usually made from metal or enamel and often have a butterfly clutch back to secure them to the lapel.
- Campaign & Promotional Lapel Pins: campaign and promotional lapel pins are worn to support a particular cause. These types of lapel pins are often used by politicians and non-profit organizations to raise awareness for their cause or campaign. These lapel pins usually feature the slogan or logo of the cause or campaign they represent and are often worn on the lapel of a suit jacket, coat, or shirt.
Which Lapel Pin Style or Body Type is Right For You?
There are many “body styles” or types of lapel pins to choose from, with the most common being:
- Boutonnieres: while not real “pins” these pre-date lapel pins and are what you typically see at weddings or proms. A boutonniere is a real flower that’s attached to a buttonhole or lapel hole in formal attire.
- Floral Lapel Pins: are the successor to boutonnieres. These lapel pins look like flowers but are made from soft materials like satin, cotton, polyester, linen, or silk. They are pinned in the same way as boutonnieres, and are reusable, but are much smaller than the original counterparts.
- Stick Pins: these lapel pins are long, thin, and made from various metals like gold, silver, and copper. The lapel of the pin sits at the top, and the cap of the needle sits at the bottom. In some models of lapel stick pins, the fastener can slide up and down, giving the wearer control over the fastening mechanism.
- Mini Pins or Badges: these types of lapel pins do not have a stem, like stick pins, and instead are attached by piercing the short pin on the backside of the lapel through your outfit’s material, and then clasped with an attaching fastener (butterfly clutch, rubber, or magnetic). These types of lapel pins are most commonly made from either soft and ridged enamel or hard and smooth enamel.
- Brooches: these are often larger than lapel pins, have a vintage or precious metal element to them, and use a hinged pin to fasten it closed.
Other types of lapel pin you may read about include cloisonne, which have a jewelry-like finish to them and all painted areas are flush with the outer edges of the metal; die-struck pins which use raised and recessed textured backgrounds to create unique designs using brass, copper, or iron metals; and offset printed lapel pins which are often created from high-resolution digital artwork and finished off with a clear epoxy coating.
How to Wear Your Lapel Pins For Maximum Effect
Floral or Stick Lapel Pins
- Remove the cap that’s protecting the bottom of the needle.
- Pierce the needle through the top of your lapel fold, threading the stem down until the top of the lapel pin rests above the lapel buttonhole.
- Now pierce the bottom of the needle through the bottom of your lapel.
- Place the cap back onto the bottom of the needle.
- You can either have the metal stem showing or have it underneath the lapel.
Mini Pins/Enamel Pins
- Remove the back clasp of the mini pin or enamel pin.
- Push the needle through the lapel pin buttonhole (or where it would be).
- Reattach the clasp to the needle and lock the clasp in place to secure it.
General Guidelines on Wearing Lapel Pins
All lapel pins, when worn traditionally, should be placed on the left lapel of your suit jacket, coat, shirt, or evening dress either through the buttonhole on the lapel or where the buttonhole would be. The lapel pin is positioned in this manner so that it can complement a pocket square or tie clip.
If you are going to wear a lapel pin with a pocket square or a tie clip, make sure that the colors coordinate with one another and your outfit, to prevent looking overwhelming and disorganized. If you’re wearing a stick pin, and the metal cap or fastener at the end is showing, it should match the details of your tie clip/tie bar, belt, or watch.
What Types of Events Are Lapel Pins Worn At?
Lapel pins can be worn at both formal and informal events, it just depends on the type of pin you’re looking to wear and what type of outfit you’re expected to be in. For example, ornate flower lapel pins and metal lapel pins are most commonly worn at formal events like weddings if you’re attending as a guest, while the groom is likely to wear a boutonniere.
On the semi-formal side, metal lapel pins are great for corporate events where the dress code is more reserved but still requires a level of professionalism. Finally, small and simple lapel pins can be worn to organization demonstrations on casual shirts, or during more light-hearted events like trade shows, networking events or conventions. However, you can also wear them to church, graduations, college events and presentations, and work-related interviews.
Is There Lapel Pin Etiquette?
While there are no “hard and fast” rules when it comes to lapel pin etiquette, there are a few guidelines you should follow to ensure you aren’t breaking any social norms or offending anyone. In formal events, save the boutonnieres or flower lapel pins for the gentlemen, while the ladies should look for small and delicate metal pins. In corporate settings, keep your lapel pins small, simple, and don’t wear more than one as this can come off as cluttered and overbearing.
How Do I Care For My Lapel Pins?
How you go about caring for your lapel pins depends on the material they are made from. For metal pins, avoid getting them wet as this can cause the metal to rust or tarnish, and if they do get wet, dry them off immediately with a soft cloth. For enamel pins, avoid getting them wet as well, as this can cause the paint to chip. If they do get wet, let them air dry completely before storing them away. When you’re not wearing your lapel pins, store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to avoid damaging them.
Lapel pins are a great way to accessorize any outfit and add that touch of personality to show off your interests, affiliations, or accomplishments. Just remember to pick the right style, and type for the formal or informal event you’re going to, and coordinate them with your other accessories. If you’d like to go all out and have a lapel pin customized for your next event, you can get a free quote from us, or if you have any questions about wearing or selecting lapel pins, email us at [email protected] or give us a call at (407) 278-4519.