How To Wear A Lapel Pin – A Quick Guide to a Fun Trend

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Who knew that a formal accessory would become one of the hottest, most fun, and most customizable fashion trends of the 21st century?

Lapel pins might be a completely new idea to some, but it’s a fashion choice that everyone can get on board with. Also called enamel pins, these small, pretty jewelry pieces have a long and storied history, as well as a whole lot of different applications.

Here’s everything you need to know about lapel pins.

What Is A Lapel Pin?

The definition of lapel pins is pretty self-explanatory – they are pins that are attached to the lapel of dresses and costumes.

If you’re confused as to what a “lapel” is – it’s the folded flaps of cloth on the front of jackets, coats, dresses, and other types of formal wear. There are multiple types of lapels but that’s not really why we’re here – lapel pins can be attached to any type of lapel on any type of clothing.

The reason why they are also called “enamel pins” is that enamel is the material that’s traditionally been used for the creation of lapel pins.

Enamel lapel pins
Enamel lapel pins by MeliMe. See them here.

Enamel is made from fused powdered glass that’s then layered and colored to create various images and shapes, thus creating the lapel pin.

Lapel pins can consist of literally any shape or form imaginable. They are typically used to display political, religious, corporate, fraternity, or other types of affiliations.

They are traditionally formal in nature but recently they’ve been used more and more in informal manners – for marketing and branding purposes, satirical or social campaigns, and so on.

History Of Lapel Pins

lapelpin on jacket

The history of the lapel pin is quite long and noteworthy, especially if we go further back and examine the history of the enameling technology itself. It was the ancient Egyptians, back in 1,800 BCE – yes, 3,800 years ago – that first started mastering enameling.

The ancient Greeks followed suit soon after but it wasn’t until the 13th and 14th centuries AD that Chinese dynasties invented and used lapel pins as we know them today. In the period between 1271 and 1368 AD, the Chinese improved the ancient enameling techniques. This caused enamelware to skyrocket in popularity and with it – enamel pins as well.

Lapel Pin of a Photography Lover

From there, lapel pins quickly became popular around the world as well. Especially after the Revolutionary War and through World War I, lapel pins were widely used by soldiers in battle. These pins also became popular in political circles, as well as among political supporters at rallies and other political events.

In the last several decades, however, lapel pins have been used in virtually every sphere of our social lives too. This makes them both a great addition to anyone’s wardrobe, as well as a complicated piece to choose and use sometimes as the use of a lapel pin is very much tied to its context.  

How To Wear A Lapel Pin – The Dos And Don’ts

Speech bubble lapel pin
Speech bubble lapel pin by Hartiful. See it here.

Here we’ll talk strictly about formal lapel pins as this is where ‘the rules’ apply. Lapel pins on costumes and dresses need to be used with care – both for them to have the proper context and for the piece of clothing, they are attached to, to remain unharmed.

Here are the main Dos and Don’ts of using lapel pins:

How to Wear a Lapel Pin

  • Always attach the pin to your left lapel.
  • If your lapel has a buttonhole, place the pin over it. This will both hide the buttonhole and leave the rest of your lapel un-punctured by the pin.
  • Pierce the fabric carefully if there is no buttonhole on your lapel. For repeated piercings try and use the hole from previous uses so that you don’t puncture your lapel in too many places.
  • Match the metal and design of the lapel pin to your other jewelry or accessories if possible. Aside from its use as a statement, the lapel pin is also a fashion statement – it should work well with the rest of your fashion accessories such as your watch, cufflinks, and belt buckle.

How Not to Wear a Lapel Pin

  • Don’t place the pin anywhere else other than your left lapel.
  • Make sure the lapel pin isn’t ridiculously oversized or that it doesn’t feel out of place with the rest of your outfit.
  • Don’t use a lapel pin if it has a political, religious, militaristic, social, or other message attached to it that is unfitting the event you’re attending. If you’re uncertain as to what the tone or theme of the event is, use a neutral lapel pin.
  • Don’t use more than one lapel pin at a time. There are certain situations such as military organization events where wearing multiple lapel pins at once is acceptable or even expected. However, in most other situations, wearing more than one lapel pin tends to look distracting and cluttered.
How To Wear A Lapel Pin – A Quick Guide to a Fun Trend

Break the rules and wear them your way

Remember that these rules only apply to wearing lapel pins in their original, formal way. Like we said before, lapel pins are now a fun, fashion choice too. They’re perfect for:

  • Adding a pop of color to your outfit
  • Making a political or social statement
  • Featuring your hobbies and interests (travel, photography, and dogs are some ideas)

If you’re wondering whether a lapel pin is right for you, it probably is. However, you might want to consider what statement you’re trying to make with a lapel pin, as anything you wear will likely draw attention and become a conversation starter.

Whether you’re making a statement about animal rights, veganism, LGBTQI rights, anti-war, or simply just showing your love for your pet, a lapel pin is an excellent way to do it.

Types Of Lapel Pins

As a fashion accessory with such a long history, lapel pins today come in many different types, in addition to the various designs they can have. Here are the main types of lapel pins you might want to look into:

Personalized enamel lapel pins
Personalized enamel lapel pins by KZ Design 1988. See them here.

1. Soft enamel lapel pins

These pins are durable and bright, and they are used for anything from souvenirs to children’s clubs and school sports teams.

2. Hard enamel and cloisonné lapel pins

These pins are used to demonstrate high class and status. They are utilized by sororities, fraternities, corporate brands, government agencies, country clubs, and so on.

3. Photo-etched lapel pins

These budget-friendly pins are easy and inexpensive to craft while still visually effective. They are great for various membership and participation awards.

4. Die Struck lapel pins

This type of lapel pin is great when you want a classic and distinguished look. They have a two-tone metal finish and are perfect for medals or long-service pins.

5. Die-cast and 3D lapel pins

If you want a three-dimensional lapel pin for a more unique look, die-cast lapel pins are the way to go.

6. Screen and offset printed lapel pins

This type of lapel pin is very affordable to make and can be made to resemble very detailed images and texts.

Lapel pins can also come in different types depending on their pin or attachment mechanism. In fact, a lot of lapel pins today are not actual “pins”.

Feather lapel pin
Gold feather stickpin by The Gents lab. See it here.

1. A classical stickpin

These pinhead needles are what lapel pins have been for centuries. They are traditional, secure, and easy to use.

2. Magnetic-clasp lapel pins

This new type of lapel pin uses a magnetic backing that’s placed behind your lapel and that forces the front of the pin to stay attached to it. These are great when you don’t want to damage your suit or jacket but are less secure than stickpins.

3. Screw-and-nut lapel pins

These pins are great for physically active people and events. They are the most secure type of pin as they cannot fall off, get lost, or be removed unintentionally.

4. Butterfly-clasp lapel pins

The security of the butterfly clasp is also quite high. These pins are mostly used for school emblems and flags, as well as for various novelty shapes.

When and Where To Wear A Lapel Pin?

Initial name lapel pin
Initial name lapel pin by 01Second. See it here.

The short answer here is – everywhere you want. Lapel pins today come in so many different styles and designs that you can wear one even just to the grocery store. Here are some ideas:

1. Formal events

This is the most common type of situation for wearing a lapel pin. Whether you’re at a wedding or at another formal event, a lapel pin will certainly feel right for your outfit.

2. Business events

Lapel pins can be worn even for your day-to-day office work but they are especially suitable for official business events and gatherings.

3. Daily and nightly social events

Sure, it may seem silly to wear a rose on your lapel for a night out, but a small and subtle, well-chosen lapel pin can do wonders for your outfit in any social situation.

Where to Find Lapel Pins

If you’re on the hunt for a lapel pin, we suggest starting your search on Amazon or Etsy. These two sites feature lapel pins from a variety of designers, and at a range of prices. You can also find custom lapel pin designers to help you get exactly what you’re after.

Ready to browse? Click here for a range of amazing lapel pins on Etsy. 

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years in the jewelry niche. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education. She has always been interested in expression through fashion and accessories, and her extensive experience in the field has made her a respected voice in jewelry trends and education. As the chief editor of Jewelry Shopping Guide, she not only leads the content strategy but also shares her insights through engaging articles. Her passion for storytelling is reflected in every piece she curates, exploring the intricate relationship between jewelry and personal identity.

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