Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA
One of the best looks for a man to master is the art of accessorising, and that mastery goes beyond simply matching the right tie with a suit.
Men have fewer options than women when it comes to accessories, which makes it all the more important to make sure the look works with your personal style. Sure, the perfect tie and cufflinks can take you places, but lapel pins can be a gamechanger when it comes to taking your look to the next echelon of distinction.
As a classic men’s accessory that is often overlooked, lapel pins are a striking decoration that lean on the old adage about style being in the fine details. In this overview, Outsons will teach you everything you need to know about lapel pins, including their storied history, how and when to wear them, the occasions they are suited for, and much more. In no time at all, you will know the allure of adding a lapel pin to instantly make sure your style has a renewed sense of singularity.
What Is a Lapel Pin?
Lapel pins, also referred to as enamel pins, may serve no functional purpose, but in a fashion sense, the lapel pin is meant to add a bit of panache to a man’s overall look. This decorative piece is worn on the lapel of a jacket, which is located on the left side of a jacket or coat right below the collar.
The History of the Lapel Pin
The lapel pin dates back thousands of years, tracing its history all the way back to circa 1800 B.C., when Egyptian created the inlaying and enamelling process to produce them. But it was the Chinese around the 13th century that began designing and manufacturing lapel pins during the Ming Dynasty when they were worn by soldiers in battle to denote rank and status. From there, the trend continued and thrived around the world, through the Revolutionary War, World War I, until now.
Most people may not realize that lapel pins are actually in fact brooches, and in the 16th century, Italian men were known for wearing them on the brims of their hats to signify a noteworthy religious pilgrimage. Whether called a brooch or a lapel pin, the fact is that they have been used over the centuries to reflect a person’s rank in a group or organisation. In modern times, the lapel pin has fully made the transition into a coveted accessory among men with an innate sense of style.
Why Men Wear Lapel Pins
A lapel pin is considered to be a classic accessory in certain circles and a refreshing, timeless item that brings singularity and character to an individual’s look. The dress codes in menswear do not require men to ever wear a lapel pin. However, when they are worn, they are sure to be noticed as they go above sartorial expectations. There is no mistaking how stylish a lapel pin can be and they are one of the few areas in fashion where men have the opportunity to express their own personality. Lapel pins allow men to add subtle art and style in ways that can make a standard suit much more noticeable. Employing such a versatile item into your collection, you immediately expand the reach of your look without compromising your personal sense of style.
What’s So Cool About Lapel Pins?
The appeal of the lapel has grown considerably in recent years, and the revival has meant more options that cover the classic lapel to more outré choices that celebrate new style aesthetics in menswear. Similar to the nice touch that cuff links are able to produce, lapel pins are now offered by a slew of companies that are eager to jump on this renaissance. Now that you have a better idea of their history, Outsons will now break down the types of lapel pins that men can choose from to complete an outfit.
Types of Lapel Pins
No matter what your precise tastes may be, the beauty of lapel pins lies in the amount of selections available that can work for any occasion, from the impromptu informal event to a black tie affair. The following are the various lapel pins that can be added to a suit.
A boutonniere is the floral lapel pin that is regarded as the most formal option as far as lapels go. For a more authentic boutonniere, a sprig that is secured with a pin works for a jacket, but if you are concerned about the wilt factor, the next best thing is to choose a silk fabric option that gives you the look of a real flower that won’t go limp or set off any allergies.
Long Stem Pins
Men that choose long stem pins will definitely be noticed as they command attention with their elongated stems and the variety of shapes and colours that typically adorn them. Long stem pins are made from gold, copper, or silver metallics, and are available in geometric, animal, and feather shapes. A contemporary touch that adds a significant amount of flair, long stem lapel pins are easily fastened to a jacket and make for an impressive finishing touch.
Collar Lapel Pins
Lapel pins that attach to the collar, these lapel pins may be less traditional than others, but they are an interesting selection that many men with an astute sense of style can pull off.
There are some fabrics that you don’t want to risk piercing with pins, and this is where magnetic clasps come in. Consisting of two magnetic disks that attach at the front and back of the lapel pin, they allow you to embellish your coat or jacket without worrying about damaging the material. The only negative is that you have to ensure that the magnets are strong enough to keep the lapel in place.
Screw and Nut
For men that are looking for security in lapel pins and plan on being fairly active on the event in question, the screw and nut pins are among the best as they allow you greater movement because of their clasps. Simply place the nut screws in to keep them in place and they are secure enough for any occasion.
Also known as clutch backs, the butterfly clutch attaches through a sharp point that releases when squeezed. Because they are smaller in size, a butterfly clutch is a great way for men to add a small accessory to their jacket that has the potential to maximize the overall effect.
The military look has made a resurgence as of late, and badges also count as lapel pins, and here is where men can adorn themselves with national flags or stars to show their more patriotic side.
How To Wear a Lapel Pin
The first rule of wearing a lapel pin is knowing how to position it on your coat, which should be on the left side just north of the pocket square. Typically, the lapel pins go through the buttonhole of the lapel and if there isn’t one, you can alternatively pierce straight through the material. The lapel pin should sit at the same angle of the lapel. Now that you’ve learned the proper way to position, the next critical step is learning how to effectively style a lapel pin.
How to Style a Lapel Pin
Where you are going and how you want to present yourself will determine how you style the lapel pin you pair with your jacket. Depending on the occasion, you may want an understated lapel or a vibrant bold option. Outsons provides a few suggestions to ensure that you are perfectly styled for the event in question.
The Black Tie Event
For more formal occasions where expectations are higher, a smart tuxedo and a boutonniere style lapel pin is the perfect combination for men to consider. A nice, single-bud bloom stem through the lapel is a great way to embellish a suit. A nice red or white rose paired with a dinner jacket is a nice classic touch.
The Daring Option
Men that want to push the boundaries sartorially with the lapel pins can opt for more vibrant colors to contrast with a neutral jacket. The important component for pulling this effect off expertly is knowing how to colour match. The colours that create the most dramatic effect are primary colours – red, yellow, and blue stand out against a monotone suit jacket.
The Understated Approach to Wearing a Lapel Pin
A more subdued option is sometimes called for and tonal colours that match the jacket colour can be more about texture than shades. Neutral shades like beige, black, or white can be dynamic in a ‘less is more’ way. As a general rule of thumb, a lapel pin can be worn for occasions that require a suit or simply a blazer. However, it is not advisable to wear bold lapel pins at events like a job interview or funeral as they may be perceived as too busy for the occasion. In these instances, minimalist is the way to go.
The Office Look
If you want to give your work attire a minor upgrade, a metal lapel pin is perfect to match with your other accessories, namely your belt, watch, and cuff links. If you want to feature the lapel pin more, opt to not wear a collar bar or tie clip to maximize the effect.
Keeping It Casual
There are times when you don’t have to go full formal, and for those casual times, men can opt for a layered lapel pin look that combines a couple of dimensions and textures to bring more dynamics to a blazer. A nice pocket square, crisp long-sleeved shirt and an open jacket is a clean casual look that is unassumingly stylish.
When You Should Wear Lapel Pins
Long gone are the days when lapel pins were only relegated to formal events or specific place, but you still may be asking yourself when should you wear one? These days, lapel pins can be found everywhere, from casual, dressed down gatherings to corporate events and weddings. There really are no boundaries on when to wear a lapel pin. While some men may decide to wear them as part of their casual blazers on a daily basis, others may decide on lapel pins for primarily upscale or formal events.
The Casual Alternatives to Wearing Lapel Pins
One question that often comes up is whether or not men can wear lapel pins without a suit jacket. The answer is a resounding yes as there are plenty of casual occasions in which lapel pins are perfectly appropriate. In fact, lapel pins can be worn without a jacket at all, and here we illustrate style hacks that you can apply when there is no blazer or suit jacket to consider.
Many men wear a coat or blazer nearly every day, and this gives ample opportunities to customize these jackets with lapel pins that come in an array of designs, all of which can be customized for the occasion at hand. The power lies totally within your hands, with the only caveat to be sure to coordinate your colours.
Since there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to matching pocket squares and lapel pins, the only objective is to have them coordinated in a way that creates a winning combination. It is absolutely not necessary to match too much – keep the colours complementary and remember that you are at liberty to take some creative license here.
If you decide not to wear a blazer as part of your look, then some men may decide on a nice lapel pin to wear with a tie. This is when you should go for a bolder lapel pin that shows your confidence in your style choices. Place the lapel pin towards the middle of your tie and go for broke!
Another option that often gets overlooked is wearing the lapel pin directly on a shirt if you choose not to wear a jacket or tie. For men that go in this style direction, the lapel pin should still be placed on the left side as if you were wearing a jacket.
Mini-Hacks on How to Wear a Lapel Pin
Men that decide on lapel pins should do so but not in exchange for wearing cufflinks. If anything, you can wear both and coordinate them to make a better presentation. The most important guideline to remember is that lapel pins should always match the occasion at hand. When in doubt, go for understatement as opposed to over the top.
Everything You Need To Know About How To Wear A Lapel Pin
The fact that lapel pins are so versatile means that there are a multitude of options that men can consider to make their outfit spectacular. Outsons believes that elegance comes in all shapes and sizes, and the lapel pin allows men to impress friends, family, and co-workers with a small accessory that packs exceptional range. There is no question that once men find a few that work for them, they may never look back.
Upon further review, it is easy to see why lapel pins have made such a formidable comeback in menswear. Not only are they affordable and an easy look to pull off, but they add a degree of detail that truly elevates an outfit. With the right lapel on, men have more ways to express themselves to the world. Men that are fairly new to the world of lapel pins can start with the traditional and then veer towards bolder options once they are more confident with the accessory. There is no reason why any man shouldn’t start with a few and trust their instincts to create a winning look. The magic of a lapel pin to elevate your wardrobe is a no-brainer and they should be an essential accessory for men that would like to add a sense of dapperness to a great suit or casual attire.
Feature image: © Scott Webb @ Unsplash