Pinned In, Patched Up

As I walk down Boylston Street, I notice people’s accessories. I notice what they’re wearing and how they’re wearing it, but what I find most interesting is their flair. Flair is anything from enamel pins and iron-on patches to buttons and brooches. People have amped up their shirts, backpacks, bags, and, especially, their denim jackets.Your outfit is your canvas, and you are the artist that’s able to decorate and accessorize however you see fit. This trend of accessorizing jackets with flair has existed since the 1980s, but it has recently resurged with the rise of independent enamel pin and patch designers. The flair itself says just as much about the person that buys it as it does about the designer. Flair is a way to make a basic piece of clothing original and unique. It allows the wearer to personalize their wardrobe and turn their clothes into wearable art.

Absolutely anyone can wear jacket flair—it’s for people who want to make a statement no matter how big or how subtle. Decorating different elements of your outfit is a mode of self expression that allows you to display your passions, interests, and views. This mode of wearing art lets you project your individual visual tastes into your style and wardrobe, forging the gap between fashion and art. Oftentimes these two entities intermingle, but with pins and patches you physically get to wear a piece of your favorite designers’ art work right on your outfit.

The best part about flair is that the possibilities are endless. There are so many different ways of finding pins and patches, whether in a store, in a thrift shop, online, or through Instagram. Much of the craze over flair stems from the idea that you get to collect art in an accessible way. There are thousands of designers, mainly illustrators, that have started their own businesses making pins, patches, and other wearable forms of their artwork, such as Tuesday Bassen, Georgia Perry, and Erik Buikema.

Some flair makes statements, displaying political views or passions. There are enamel pins of everyone from Bernie Sanders to Kim Kardashian. There are feminist patches, buttons proclaiming that a person is a Democrat, and pins that declare “I’m a Vegetarian!”. These accessories give people a glimpse into who you are before they’ve even talked to you.

Bitsy Skerry ‘18 is a huge pin lover. She collects all kinds of pins, mainly ones that she’s thrifted or has been gifted from friends and relatives. She displays her pins on her signature denim jacket that she found in the boys’ section of Savers. She says she seeks out pieces that represent her and that are conversation starters. She believes that pins and art are ways for her to connect with others. In terms of decorating her jacket, Skerry says, “I like to play around with the positioning of pins to allow the eye to visually move across the denim jacket to tell a story. Pins are like a paragraph that allow you to read a person.”

Sometimes people think that they can’t rock a denim jacket full of flair, but there are so many different ways to wear it. You can try wearing flair on another clothing item like a leather jacket, or a tote, messenger bag, or backpack. Some people will use their flair as room décor. Personally, I like to use my patches as wall art. I think they create an interesting textural dynamic among Polaroids and art prints. To decorate with buttons and pins, stick them in a little cork board or on some fabric in an embroidery hoop.

To find flair locally, check out thrift shops like Savers or Goodwill, or hop on Instagram and browse designers like Georgia Perry, Valley Cruise Press, Tuesday Bassen, and Culture Flock. Some designers, like Georgia Perry, tend to focus on portraits of celebrities and cultural icons in their art, while others, like Valley Cruise Press, make pins and patches with beachy themes. Tuesday Bassen’s designs are all about female empowerment, and Culture Flock’s flair is quirky and whimsical. Most designers have their own websites and/or Etsy accounts where they sell their work, and their Instagrams usually have links to either of these. There are thousands of flair illustrators and designers, allowing you to find flair that fits your personal style.

Clothing and accessories are a physical representation of one’s values and interests. Flair is one fun, easy way to tell people who you are and what you’re about.

Illustration by Hayley Joseph.