The trend that mixes nostalgia and humour, with some kickass independent brands

When I was fifteen, I owned an ex-army satchel which had the names of my favourite bands written in glitter, beads sewn on and badges. Everything was an outlet for self-expression, even my science lab coat proudly proclaimed my love for Rage Against the Machine – smashing the system one pear-shaped-flask at a time!

I don’t write on my clothes anymore and my badge collection has since been consigned to a dusty box at the bottom of my bookshelf, until that is, my friend told me about Mike McCabe’s Leftorium, an independent store that sells Simpson-themed patches, pins, T-shirts and more. Interest piqued, I ordered a ‘Maison Derriere’ keyring – Simpson’s fans will remember this as the town’s brothel – to add a dash of humour to my daily front door opening/bike unlocking.

This appetite for witty nostalgia has been felt the last few seasons on the catwalks too, from Louis Vuitton’s varsity patch jackets, to Vivenne Westwood’s tailoring pieces featuring a thrift-chic cornucopia of pins, patches, military gold frogging and plastic toys. LA-based Libertine have made a name for themselves with clothes that feature patches, layers of sequinned motifs and embroidery, while Miuccia Prada sent models down the runway for this season wearing denim jackets featuring boucle patches.

It’s a return to playfulness within fashion, as a counterpoint to minimimalism, which has dominated catwalks for the last few years. Hannah Watkins, WGSN’s Senior Editor of Prints and Graphics says this trend is part of ‘a nostalgic throwback’. Dominating the street style pages was one label: ‘Gucci has been a catalyst for this craze, with its eclectic looks and mix ‘n’ match approach to embellishment.’ Think jeans and denim jackets with oversized botanical motifs; Watkins says this kind of look is ‘driven by the current obsession with the 1990s.’ It’s also, in this climate of austerity, an easy way to update your look, just switch up your pins or add some patches to an old piece to give it a new lease of life.

Andrew Garnett, owner of Brighton boutique Family Store, says the patches and pins trend was something he’d spied coming for a while: ‘I’d tried a couple of times in the few years prior to opening Family Store to get pins and patches into [the shop he then ran]. I could see it was an emerging thing but the owner wasn’t so convinced.’ Originality and uniqueness is a huge part of the appeal: ‘It’s an increasingly affordable way creatives can produce something that folk can buy into.’ Garnett agrees that this is partly born out of economic circumstance: ‘homeowners are few and far between nowadays and people want to input their personality into something that will reflect back to them. Pins, patches, tees, prints and so forth are an affordable and accessible way to do that.’

Emma Davidson, managing director of Denza, a fashion recruitment agency, says that pins make her ‘smile through the day’. It’s that sense of fun that people are tapping into: ‘I mostly get dressed with a character or costume in my head. I like having these little accessories that can be part of the conversation, or character, a little voice. For example, sometimes I will dress like a Stepford Wife, but I have a little pin that looks inadvertently like my boyfriend which is funny to me.’ They’re useful for ending a new lease of life to old clothes and accessories that you’ve tired of. Davidson takes a creative approach to styling her pins, beyond your bog-standard lapel, wearing them ‘on my front, my collar, my denim jacket. Holding a shirt together where a button has popped off. Sometimes I get a silk square scarf and tie a knot in it and then tie the ends round the back of my neck and add a pin like a jewel on a necklace.’

It’s also a great way to support independent brands and makes an easy, individual gift for last-minute Christmas panic (it’s always last minute!) Davidson relies on Etsy sellers like Jess Warby and Penelope Gazin, and boutiques like Beach London to keep her stocked in witty accessories. Hannah Watkins namechecks Lazy Oaf and Pintrill, while Andrew Garnett reps King Drippa, Life Club, PSA press as well as more established names like Stay Home Club. When she found out Zara were copying her pins and patches earlier this year, cult designer Tuesday Bassen teamed up with fellow creatives on Shop Art Theft, where you can easily purchase any of the original designs that have been ripped off by big high street labels. Bassen recently branched out into clothing, taking the witty, cartoonish ethos of pins and patches and expanding it into sweaters, caps and satin jackets. This trend is humour for the emoji age, if you’re dotting your text messages with an ironic laughing face or a suggestive peach, why not do the same with your clothes?

Clockwise from left:

King Drippa Fuck Off Earth pin

Rosehound Apparel I Hate Sports Button

Era Dura Heartsick Patch

Ziero Mystery Ultraviolet Moonlight patch

Rosehound Apparel Feeling Salty patch

Tuesday Bassen Mixed Emotions pin

Penelope Gazin Get Lost pin badge

Leftorium Maison Derriere Matchbook pin

Jess Warby Freedom patch


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