“Badges speak for themselves,” says emerging artist Corbin Shaw, who uses them in his practice. “They’re a visual language stating that you’re part of a tribe or group. But badges can express so many different things.” Strongly associated with music and subculture, the real power of a badge has always been identity, and that’s what makes them so collectible.
“I look for bands I like, then designs that are clear to understand. They can be bright and detailed, or monochrome and blunt. They just can't be lame,” explains Kevin Pedersen, LA-based owner of cult Instagram account The Best Badges. After getting hooked when he couldn’t afford to buy records, he began taking notice of the artwork.
“Turned out my pal Joly MacFie made them through his company Better Badges. They sold the first punk badges at the Ramones’ 1976 Roundhouse show and worked with every band of the era, producing pins for punks, hard rockers, new wavers, etc. It was a reason to connect with people.”
For set designer Suzanne Beirne, whose work appears in i-D, Dazed and Self Service, badges were a connection to her idols that explored punk in a modern context. “Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex was a huge influence. ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours!’ always started the set at Girls in the Garage, a club night I co-founded at the Push Bar in Soho during the mid-2000s,” she says. “Her look mixed traditional circular pin badges with brooches too, so I usually ended up wearing about 20.” The stash Beirne keeps for design references has moved on since then, just like the badges’ links with punk.