Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's the big deal with the little lapel pins?

Lapel pins have often been a mystery to me; they’re small bits of metal in one shape or another with a few colors on them – nothing particularly special. Yet in recent years it’s hard to turn on the TV let alone walk down the street without seeing pins here there and everywhere and this got me thinking, just what are the pins meant to say and do they actually do what people hope they will?

Well first let’s look at what they’re meant to do – some pins, like the US flag, are meant to show patriotism and a belief in America both of which are ideals I think that everyone can believe in. Others are more particular in their focus, perhaps a charitable organization or a sports team. Here the pin is meant not only to show the support for a certain cause but also to show others the body to which you belong and perhaps to even make people aware of whatever the pin is showing. With such disparate aims it is fair to say that it might be hard for a pin to be able to cover them all.

Let’s look at pins which try to show a belief in something, like the stars and stripes or the pins famously worn by Lenin. Whenever you see such a visible symbol of a belief it is incredibly effective in putting in the front of your mind what this person is about and also the fact that they are willing to show it openly. The lapel pin communicates so much by evoking ideas and memories that you have been exposed to throughout your life which have always been referenced to a certain idea which is exemplified by the pin. Quite clever!

The same is true of the charity pins, they let you know which charity that person supports and also helps therefore to make you think about what that charity does and, if enough people wear the pins, to raise the public profile of that charity and as a result, the underlying issues that it represents. This is particularly the case around the time of special days such as memorial days or annual charity events as more and more people wear the pins to show support. Moreover, many charities can use the pins to generate income to help fund their ongoing work.

So, do they do their job? The more I think about it, the more I’m sure that they do, far from being mere fashion accessories the pins carry a lot with them and obviously have a strong place in our society.