Badges: A Platform for Protest and Propaganda

Badges: A Platform for Protest and Propaganda

Posted by Paul West on 16th Aug 2018

Pin badges have a rich and fascinating history. An early use of custom made badges, promotional pins and corporate badges was in activism. People wore them in demonstrations and marches in the form of protest badges to help draw awareness to political and social causes.

Even earlier in history, badges were used on religious pilgrimages. These badges were rudimentary versions of modern custom made badges and corporate badges that have evolved quite a bit since then.

Badges a Potent Vehicle For Self-Expression For Centuries

Union marches, protest marches, social rallies and charitable causes are just a few examples of movements that have brought people together en masse over the last couple of centuries. Badges have been used as a vehicle for self-expression in social movements and causes related to voting, unionisation, anti-war, and more. They have helped countless people to express their views at these events and while out in the public eye.

In effect, badges are a personal sign that people can wear to empower them in displaying beliefs, allegiances and preferences that would otherwise remain unknown. They are a highly effective way to make a direct impression, especially in densely populated areas and at events such as rallies, on public transportation, at outdoor festivals or urban areas.

Early Versions of Badges Showed Solidarity, Gave Voice to Opinions

Believe it or not, the earliest appearance of badges in human culture was during the Middle Ages. Badges were worn during the pilgrimages that took place during this time. They were used as a sign of devotion as well as proof that they undertook the journey.

However, the emancipation movement of the 19th century was when the use of lapel badges really took off. A number of political movements, causes and social changes were debated in Europe during this time, including slavery, working conditions, land reform and free trade. Badges allowed people on both sides of each issue to express their views, connect with like-minded people and “speak their mind” before they even said a word.

The popularity of pin badges was further enhanced when die-stamping was invented and put into use in the 1840s. Messages and creative ideas could be die-stamped into a metal base, and the recesses were then coloured with translucent enamels. The design possibilities really opened up from here. Established jewellers of the time helped raise the bar on badge design, and some really innovative and memorable pieces came out of this era.

Custom Made Badges Can Contribute to Social Change

Clubs, charities and societies of the time also very quickly saw the promotional and potential “viral nature” of pin badges. Members wearing badges related to a group could help to spread awareness, raise interest and increase membership in their organisations.

In the 1850s, small photographs referred to as “tintype” were inserted into mounts and worn as badges during American political rallies. An 1896 patent was issued to Whitehead & Hoag for a celluloid-covered button badge. This was the immediate predecessor to today’s modern button badge design.

Cigarette manufacturers of the day began to use badges to market their products, and they were also in heavy use in the Boer War and at the 1897 Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Of course, badges could also be used to spread propaganda, and they have been used in this way throughout the years.

"Solidarity badges" are still worn today for a variety of causes. What possibilities can you envision for pin badges as society changes and evolves? For all your custom made badge needs, turn to Make Badges. We offer no minimum order quantity, fast four day turnaround and free order tracking. Our passionate and experienced team can help you fashion the ideal badge for your next social awareness or protest campaign.

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