Buttons / Pins
Some people carry pictures in their wallets, and some people are said to wear their hearts on their sleeves…well, buttons made it possible to show off—and express yourself—as much or as little as you wanted.
It all started in the 60’s, that hotbed of personal expression. Even if you weren’t a hippie with long hair, bare feet and love beads, you could still let your voice be heard in a protest—just not as loud as all those damn hippies. And so, being vocally outmatched, you said it with tiny pictures or words trapped inside a plastic shell with a metal pin. This protest button could be as visible or invisible as you were comfortable with: attach it front and center, or semi-hidden on a purse strap or back pocket. There were peace symbols, “Ban the Bra,” “Make Love Not War,” and even buttons for (and naturally, against) Nixon.
Advertising pins had been a popular show of support for government races since even before the days of “I Like Ike,” but it wasn’t until the 60’s that the youth culture took the look to the extreme. One button just wasn’t enough, and by the time the 80’s rolled around, a vacant space meant one too little. These little plastic encased pictures or logos were sported on jean jackets, backpacks, hats and more—anywhere a pin could be stuck, it was. Dukes of Hazzard, the Sweathogs, Wonder Woman, and even the dynamic daredevil Evel Kneivel had a place on the shiny plastic pins. And for your inner humorist, there were even little comic sayings like “Gag Me With a Spoon,” “You’re Ugly and Your Mother Dresses You Funny” and “Life's a Beach!”
During the early 80’s, pins got super small, the size of a silver dollar, and became just another ‘too much is never enough’ accessory. Like Madonna’s stacks of neon bracelets, pins piled up dozens at a time. Before concert t-shirts became the ubiquitous teen uniform, the way to express support for your favorite bands or singer was to display your button. Encased in shiny plastic, pictures of Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Culture Club and the Go-Go's sat side by side. Like a modern day Seurat, the tiny pins created a dotted artwork of counterculture fashion.
“Make Your Own Button” machines became a popular at-home craft, where kids could fashion their own pictures into buttons of fun. Cut out your favorite pin-ups from Tiger Beat, and keep that dreamboat Chachi or the über-sexy Rick Springfield next to your heart all day long! Just don’t leave any spotty clumps of blank space—there’s nothing more gauche than button mange.
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