In sport, it is tradition for award-giving bodies to use trophies and medals as signs of appreciation for competitors who have the best standing in their events because it requires effort and excellence to do so. As such, these symbols of high achievement must physically possess both qualities, most evident in the materials used to make them: gold, silver, or other like metals. Additionally, the design of these trinkets is suited to a style to convey respectability and discipline.
Outside the sports world, things are not so different. One can usually find corporate, political, military, and pedagogical institutions to observe the same tradition. Military personnel with stand out services, business executives achieving milestones for their companies, and outstanding students pioneering in their fields of study find themselves the recipients of similar trinkets. Plaques and plates line their desks or mantles, but along with these baubles one can also find smaller valuables: honorary badges and award pins. In formal ceremonies, these smaller niceties are proudly displayed and attached to clothes (on lapels or collars) as they add to the style and help elevate the occasion to a more respectable sophisticated level.
One often wonders why memories of such ceremonies or occasions warrant great respect from professionals, but it is indeed the so-called trinkets themselves that give off such effect. To look no further, proof of this can be found in the very craftsmanship of these lapel award pins and badges. At the source makers of these trinkets, usually artisans, practice a level of discipline and eye to detail few possess, and you’ll see these qualities transferred during the design and execution processes, starting with the plans. These are hand-drawn and customized to standard specifications. Afterwards, computer processing follows and error-and-quality checks are applied multiple times even before manufacturing. On execution time, these steps are done to perfection: surface stamping, molding formation and cutting, soldering, plating, all done with machines then polishing, cleaning, and coloring of the surface by hands. Finally, products are finished off by baking in 450 F degrees heat, and in some cases to be applied with epoxy for higher quality and protection. Embellishments and additions are sometimes added to showcase a sophistication and taste level suited to more expensive tastes: examples are contemporary clasps, designer stamps or beautiful decals found at the back, double design, danglers or extensions, lenticular or fuzzy image, and mechanically-complicated pins fitted with LED, spinners, and sliders. The majority of current manufacturing can be found in China, but some bespoke companies or respected artisans can be located in the US/UK.
In addition to craftsmanship, historical evidence shows that two qualities, power and prestige, can also be associated with lapel award pins and badges. During the reigns of Lenin and Mao Zedong in the USSR and the People’s Republic of China respectively, badges were worn to show belongingness to the Communist Party. Later, Czechoslovakian teenagers and Communist sympathizers grew partial to donning Mao lapel buttons as symbols of a counter culture movement that grew post-1968 Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. During the period before the Soviet Union’s dissolution, use of the pins and badges spread to sports, military, and political spheres and eventually to ordinary everyday behavior. Following these historical precedents, practitioners of the popular Guru Maharaj Ji displayed their admiration through buttons, badges, and pins with large images of him. Instances of older historical associations of power can also be found in the wearing of award pins during the Olympics by Western countries like the United Kingdom. Taking all of these into account might shed light to why rest of the world has adopted a similar view of significance for such trinkets.
In much of today, pop culture has also become enamored with lapel trinkets, and for fanatics, collecting them has become a niche hobby. Particularly lucrative are designs of popular characters from Disney, Hello Kitty, comic books, and corporations such as McDonald’s, Hard Rock Cafe, etc.