The History of Pins

The History of Pins

King Pins – Las Vegas Collection.

It’s an age-old question, one that’s kept you up at night. Where did pins come from?  Luckily for you, we’ve thoroughly researched the history of pins so you don’t have to.  You’re welcome & enjoy!

Greece is the Word
Democracy, the Olympic Games, and pins...Greece’s greatest contributions to the world.  Some of the earliest versions of decorative pins can be traced back to Ancient Greeks, who used fibulae, as they called them, to fasten their clothes.  While the pins were necessary in order to keep their pants on keep their loincloths together, Grecian goldsmiths decorated fibulae with various animals, precious metals, and jewels, turning them into big fat Greek fashion pieces. 

England Says “Cheerio” to Pins
Fast forward to the Middle Ages, where pins were used by the upper class, especially women, to secure their garments.  If you had money to blow, the women in your family were given “pin money,” which was their allowance to spend not only on pins, but other extravagant accessories.  Decorative pins were so popular, that pin makers couldn’t keep up with demand.  Hence, British women were like, “Pin me like one of your French girls,” and high-quality French pins were imported into England.  In 1483, the King of England tried to boost British commerce by banning French pins, but Brits said “ We DGAF,” and bought from the French anyway.

Mo Money, Mo Pins
Post Middle Ages, people looked to royalty, like King Charles V of Spain and Queen Elizabeth of England, for the newest trends, and things got flashy AF.  Aristocrats threw on anything and everything that showcased their wealth including, ornate embroidery, high ruffled collars, gems galore.  Brooches became popular among women, which they often pinned to their hats (yay hat pins!).  Many of the brooches of this time were in the shape of a cross, which is an early instance of an accessory revealing a personal fact or stance of the wearer. 


Ring My Lapel
In the 1800s, cravats, a.k.a. fancy-schmancy neckbands, were on the rise in men’s fashion.  Fashionistos needed stickpins in order to fasten their neck accessories, and these pins were often adorned with animal heads, flowers, or symbols.  This trend coincided with the Industrial Revolution, which meant that pins could be produced at higher rates and lower costs, and decorative pins were within the budget of the middle class. 

In the 1830s, newlywed Queen Victoria of England presented her husband, Prince Albert, with a flower.  Albert then sported the flower in a hole that he cut in the lapel of his coat.  A photograph of this instance went the 19th-century version of viral, and inspired the boutonniere.  

A few decades later, the American Civil War broke out.  Both the Union and Confederate armies combined the stickpin & boutonniere trends to create the first lapel pins that we know today. Soldiers’ pins were mass-produced and worn to differentiate various units.  By WWII, lapel pins were only awarded to servicemen being honored for their service, making these pins a symbol of pride. 

In the early 1900s, people began to use pins to indicate activism or affiliation.  People wore pins that signified their stance on everything from women’s voting rights to prohibition.  Clubs and organizations also issued pins to their members.  By the 1940s, airlines, automobile manufacturers, and beer companies were producing pins for their employees and customers.  Metal pins also became common in souvenir and jewelry shops. 

The popularity of political pins reached its height in the 1960s & 70s.  The “counterculture” donned pins in support of the civil rights movement and in opposition to the Vietnam War.  In retaliation to the protesters, some Republican politicians, including President Nixon, started to sport an American flag pin.  Nixon’s choice to wear an American flag on his lapel has set a precedent that U.S. Presidents still follow today. 

Pin of all Trades
By the 1980s, popular bands began producing pins to be sold on tour.  The pin community is still very closely associated with music, as pins are very popular in the Electronic Dance Music scene. EDM festival-goers are known for their eccentric concert style, and pins are one way of adding a little flair to an outfit.  Also, EDM fans are one aspect of the pin community that often trades pins.  Pin trading is a common practice among collectors, as they have the opportunity to acquire rare or limited edition pieces.

Today, enamel pins continue to evolve with pop culture, and represent the current styles and fads.  People from all walks of life have incorporated pins into their personal style, placing them on everything from hats, to denim jackets, to backpacks, and camera straps.  The possibilities of pin expression are endless!