As a sign of membership, allegiance or even a badge of pride, lapel pins are an alternative to flowers. If you’re looking to wear one of this to show a bit of personality or a splash of visual interest, they’re an interesting option.
So where and how should you properly wear one? Read our guide to learn more.
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Lapel pins have seen a resurgence in popularity in the last 15 years or so. They are a way to show membership in social clubs, professional organizations, or to simply add visual interest to a tailored ensemble.
Furthermore, many accolades offer lapel pin versions that you can wear when a medal is a little too much. For instance, the Légion d’honneur in France is often presented as a discrete red rosette that’s worn on the lapel.
Whatever your passion or interests, there’s surely a lapel pin for you.
Best guide to pins. Wear your lapel pins with pride thanks to our guide!
What Is A Lapel Pin?
A lapel pin is a decorative trinket of some kind that men wear on the lapel of a suit jacket, sport coat, or blazer. Historically, men have worn boutonnieres in their lapels, and lapel pins are a more modern substitute for them.
Lapel pins serve a few different purposes, mostly to show membership in elite social organizations, professional achievement, or patriotism (particularly in the case of American politicians, most of whom have worn American flag lapel pins since the September 11, 2001 attacks).
How & When To Wear A Lapel Pin
Lapel pins are easy to wear, you just have to keep in mind a few aesthetic guidelines:
- If made of a precious metal such as silver or gold, make sure it matches the other hardware in your outfit, such as your belt buckle, cufflinks, and the like.
- Similarly, if it’s a colorful pin, make sure it coordinates with at least one of the following: pocket square, tie, shirt, socks, or jacket. However, if you need some help coordinating colors, our guide to color is a great resource to dig through.
You can wear a lapel pin most times you’d wear a suit or something less formal, such as a sport coat.. The only times we suggest not wearing a lapel pin is when you’re at either a funeral or a job interview. In both of these cases, your goal is to minimize any way you could be perceived as ostentatious.
However, if your lapel pin is to indicate an award that you may want to highlight during your interview, you may be forgiven for such brashness.
Correct Pin Placement
You’d be amazed at how often lapel pins get put in the wrong place. Here are some guidelines:
- Lapel pins always go on the left lapel
- Lapels have buttonholes for a reason, and this is the reason. Put your lapel pin in your button hole. This is much easier if that hole is functional, and any tailor can make this happen for you in a matter of seconds.
- As an exception to rule number two, place your pin just inside the buttonhole if you’re already wearing a lapel flower in your buttonhole (see picture above for example).
- Some lapels will have a small loop of fabric on their underside just beneath the buttonhole. This loop’s purpose is to hold the stem of a long-stem lapel pin in place so that you don’t have to poke it through the lapel itself. It’s also there to hold a flower’s stem, but we’ll discuss that in more depth on our page on boutonnières.
Wearing Lapel Pins At Formal Occasions
For particularly dressy occasions, whether or not you should wear a lapel pin is situation-dependent. See below for a couple of common scenarios:
Wearing It With A Tuxedo
As it happens, tuxedos do not call for lapel pins, but rather boutonnières. Evening wear calls for real flowers only.
Wearing A Lapel Pin To A Wedding
Depending on your role in the wedding (groom, groomsman, guest, etc.), you may or may not want to wear a lapel pin. In our opinion, grooms and groomsmen should wear boutonnières, but guests can feel free to decorate their jackets with a lapel pin if they so choose. The pin’s level of conservatism (or lack thereof) should be dictated by how well you know the bride and groom and their tastes, the venue and time of day.
If the newlyweds are more staid, you should opt for a quiet lapel pin. On the other hand, if they’re party animals, something bold and fun would be totally appropriate.
Lapel Pins With Casual Styles
When wearing a lapel pin casually, you have a lot of leeway in terms of style, color, and other aesthetic details. In these cases, it’s best to defer to your personal taste.
With A Sport Coat
Putting a lapel pin in your sport coat is a great way to give some pizzazz to your look and set yourself apart from the pack. Note that many sport coats are ornately designed as it is, so you’ll want to take particular care to ensure that your pin coordinates with it from a color perspective.
With A Pocket Square
While there are no rules regarding pocket squares and lapel pins, it’s always smart to have them be color coordinated to some degree. As with all things menswear-related, you don’t want things to look matchy-matchy. If your pocket square is white with blue trim, don’t wear a lapel pin that’s also white with blue trim. If your handkerchief is yellow, don’t wear a yellow lapel pin.
You have license to be creative, so take advantage!
If you’re curious to learn more about pocket squares, take a look at our complete guide to pocket squares.
Different Types Of Lapel Pins
Naturally, there’s more than one style of lapel pin. Best practice is to try as many styles as you can and, over time, learn what your preferences are.
Long Stem Pins
Below are two examples of long-stem lapel pins. Interestingly, these are holiday-themed, perfect for end-of-year parties!
Long stem pins are usually found on faux flower lapel pins. The flower (or whatever the actual pin is) sits at the top of a pin that’s about three inches long. These are helpful for men whose lapel buttonholes are not functional, as the pin can go through the lapel and then back out easily. This gives the lapel pin more stability and will keep it in one place all day long.
Flowers / Floral Pins
Floral lapel pins are faux flowers that you put in your lapel. They may be long stem, or they simply have little button-like tabs on the back that allow you to put them through a functional lapel button hole. Either way, these have become increasingly popular in recent years, and they’re pretty inexpensive.
They’re also extremely popular, and as such, we’ve given them their own dedicated page. See our guide to lapel flowers for more.
Badges & Custom Pins
Badges are typically pins that show allegiance to or membership in some kind of organization or club. They’re often small and quite nondescript.
The lapel pins pictured above are all badge-style pins. From left to right, they indicate:
- Fandom of the Tottenham Hotspurs, an English football club
- Membership in the Union League of Philadelphia
- Membership to the New York Horological Society
Boutonnières are real live flowers worn in the lapel. Technically, they are not lapel pins. However, you can learn all about these in the dedicated boutonnière guide.
Where To Buy Lapel Pins
There are many places that sell lapel flowers. We feel that these are the best in terms of quality and aesthetics:
Dapper Lapel: An online shop with a massive selection, Dapper Lapel offers not just lapel pins, but also ties, pocket squares, and will even help folks looking to plan what the guys in a wedding party will wear. Our #1 recommendation for sure.
Edward Armah: He calls them boutonnières, but his floral lapel pins are beautiful and well-made.
Next Steps: Other Lapel Decor Styles
Now that you’re familiar with lapel pins, do you know about other ways to dress your lapel? Take a look at our other lapel pages for more: