Enamel pins continue to be valuable accessories to this day. Like the right emoji, enamel pins can tell people a lot about you. They have been around for some time, but they have evolved into something entirely new in recent years. Fueled by Instagram, a new breed of Enamel pins arose.
A History of Enamel Pins
Souvenir enamel pins have always been around. You see them at gas stations on the side of the road. Disney, the Olympics and sports took up enamel pins as part of their fan culture. In other settings, pins or lapel pins defined military culture. They have also been a sign of both unity and division in American history. In simpler settings, they are a way to signify membership in an organization. They can be used to reward indiiduals for their hardwork. There are many uses of pins. However, they have been given a new life in fashion and art by independent artists everywhere.
Enamel Pins Are Redefining Style
If we think about style, we know that it takes many forms. We know that it evolves with culture. We know that it has always centered on free expression. Style is less about matching a trend and more about staying true to your own narrative. It is about being able to create an aesthetic all your own. Style is enigmatic and everyone is always looking for a way embody it. Enter the ever-so pervasive enamel pins. Enamel pins have always been a sign of recognition and honor. Nowadays, enamel pins act as a bold fashion statement. From mirroring street style to popular culture, enamel pins might be more valuable than the clothes themselves.
Now, enamel pins take a step back from typical fashion trends. Where fashion once demanded conformity, enamel pins encourage you to take charge of your creativity. Like patches and stickers, custom pins are universal signs of expression. Wearable, tradable, and cheap to produce, enamel pins are becoming a culture all on their own. They have invaded fashion, e-commerce and social media in a way we have never seen before.
Enamel Pins & Social Media
Custom pins are flooding the world through social media. According to Busy Beaver Blog, Pinterest saw an 800% increase in the search for “pins and patches”. If you take a look at Instagram, “#pingame” turns up a stunning 1 million related posts. Clearly, the popularity of custom pin badges is growing. Social media has become the most popular place for the proliferation of enamel pins. And it makes sense why. With the advancement of technology, social media and the internet is a ubiquitous part of our culture.
According to Oberlo, here are 3.2 billion social media users worldwide. It is practically a center for all communication nowadays. Very few of us can get by without needing social media for something. Additionally, social media is a melting pot for cultural trends. It is one of the go-to places to keep up with what is going on in the world. Moreover, it is the place where people’s ideals and values come out to play. As such, enamel pins have a great place in social media. They share the same goal in representing individuals and telling narratives. It makes sense they feed off each other.
Instagram Is the Most Popular Pin Platform
Like we said above, there are over 1 million people posting under “#pingame” on Instagram. And more pin creators are turning to Instagram as the first step in growing their pin business. Why is that? In short, Instagram has power by the numbers.
- First, Instagram surpasses all other platforms in terms of active users. As of 2018, Instagram has 500 million active users. This is far more thant Twitter’s 326 million active users and Snapchat’s 150 million active users.
- Secondly, Instagram has a huge enamel pin community. As a matter of fact, many people say they first time they encountered enamel pins was through “#pingame”.
- Thirdly, Instagram has a high engagement rate. 60% of Instagram users visit the app several times a day, 55% of which are young people. Clearly, it is the place to go for content or brand visibility.
- Fourthly, Instagram strongly caters to visual communication. Instagram functions on photo grids made up of perfectly curated photos.
This makes this the perfect place for enamel pins. Framing enamel pins on Instagram is the perfect way to highlight their artful impact.
Instagram Empowers the Independent Pin Artists
Now that we understand the strength of Instagram, let’s look at how it empowers independent pin artists. Independent artists are always looking for a way to get more people to see their work. Even more strive to make a living off of their art. Instagram and enamel pins have offered a new medium for artists and illustrators to share their work. Pins are quite cheap to produce, but they turn out a massive profit. That being said, enamel pins can actually be a great way for artists to make an income off their work.
Andrea Bell, illustrator and comic artist, shared that artists are taking on a more DIY approach. Before social media, artists had to rely on third party managers to promote their work. Now, artists can promote themselves. With Instagram, artists can directly handle their own sales. In this way, custom pins have become far more lucrative to artists than original prints of their work. By turning their artwork into sellable pins, Instagram can help artists create a brand for themselves. With a brand, independent artists can start growing their enamel pins into a full-fledged business.
Instagram Allows Pin Creators to Explore E-Commerce
Instagram and the internet are what drives the enamel pin industry. Before social media, the pin market was quite small and limited. Moreover, most pin suppliers were creating more traditional enamel pins. Instagram expanded that market. As we saw above, Instagram has a high user and engagement rate. In turn, the platform’s accessibility invited more people into the enamel pin culture. In another way, Instagram acts as almost a safety net for enamel pin creators and artists. Kristina Ramirez of Homesick Generation found that enamel pins are a way to test how artwork will do on merchandise. Paired with Instagram, you have a low-risk way to gauge the market before any sales are made.
You can easily study audience interests on Instagram and gain feedback before directing anyone to your e-commerce website. On that note, Instagram is also a champ at drawing more leads towards your pin e-commerce page. According to Facebook IQ, 83% of Instagrammers found new products or services on Instagram. Meanwhile, 80% use Instagram to decide if they want to purchase a product. As such, Instagram is an ideal way to jumpstart any pin creator’s e-commerce business.
Instagram Introduces Major Retailers into the Pin Industry
As the enamel pin craze grows, it is not just independent artists taking advantage of the wearable trend. Many major retailers and brands have taken to producing their own pins. Businesses know that pins are a powerful way to get people excited about their brands. By creating pins with their brand name or social media handles, they can easily draw more leads. In 2016, Urban Outfitters started putting out wholesale orders for enamel pins. Other companies quickly followed suit. So, you can now find fashion enamel pins in retailers like Macy’s or Kmart.
Unfortunately, the addition of major retailers has started a trend of theft in the industry. Smaller pin manufacturers use local designers or have their own in-house designers. Other companies, like Vivipins, allow their customers to design their own pins. Big-house companies rarely do any of this. For example, Zara released a line of pins that were clearly plagiarized from an indie artist. To no one’s surprise, Instagram can just exacerbate the problem. With how easy it is to take a picture, artists’s works are being passed around with no credit.
Instagram Drives Pin Artists into Other Merchandise
Many artists are happy to stay just creating custom pin badges. Like we said, custom pins present a significant income opportunity. However, enamel pins can also drive artists towards creating other merchandise. If artists find success in their pin designs, they could be inspired to create more. After all, what better way to bring visibility to your brand than to spice up your merchandise collection. For example, Tuesday Bassen, an LA-based illustrator, saw her designs grow immensely well. Her popular pin designs quickly became a full apparel line with nationwide distribution. Despite doing client work, it was her own personal designs that brought her into the public light. In the same way, other artists can take their creations to the next level. Enamel Pins are a great novelty in themselves. However, t-shirts, jackets, bags, patches and other merchandise can all tell something more about your brand and art. It is a way to grow your follower base and create a sense of belonging.
Enamel Pins Speak to Youth and Popular Culture
Statista found that 64% of Instagram users are between the ages of 18-34. Moreover, users under 25 spend at least a half hour a day interacting with new content on Instagram. So, what does this mean for pin creators? This means much of the power on Instagram lies with the millenials and Generation Z individuals. Instagram is the hotbed of pop culture and clearly indicates what young people are interested in. Fortunately, enamel pins rise up to the same occasion.
Enamel pin creators, indie and retailer alike, have observed social media trends and answered accordingly. Celebrities and pop culture figures have been immortalized in enamel pins. Kim Kardashian even has at least 20 enamel pin styles made after her “kimojis”. Cult classic films and favorite television shows have also been made into custom pins. Memes have even made their way into the pin industry as well.
What makes enamel pins also quite important to youth culture is that their accessibility has become attractive to young aspiring artists. Nowadays, 16-year olds are capable of creating stunning pin designs that sell more than the more seasoned artists. Besides, who knows youth culture more than the youth.
Instagram & Enamel Pins Connect to Adult Audiences Too
If you thought that enamel pins and Instagram was just for the youth, you are wrong. There is a whole grown-culture for enamel pins and Instagram. First, Instagram and enamel pins are valuable for brand marketing. There are over 8 million active business accounts on Instagram. That means there are 8 million busnesses who understand how Instagram can connect their brand with their audience. Custom pins can work the same way. Having pins with your brand is not only a great way to represent your business in professional settings. Pins can be handed out as a means of connecting people with your online presence. Moreover, enamel pins have made quite a splash in the politcal arena, with American flag or campaign pins. Sagmeister & Walsh, a design firm, used enamel pins to support charities like PLanned Parenthood and ACLU. Tumblr sold enamel pins to support net neutrality. Enamel pins do not always have to be a funny quote or meme. Just as Instagram is not always selfies. With the right combination, enamel pins and Instagram can work together to strengthen a brand or empower a movement.
Instagram Inspires Customization
The joint power of enamel pins and Instagram is the power of self-expression. Both present avenues of discovering and defining oneself. In both senses, people like to highlight their personality and tell their story in subtle ways. Moreover, both are highly individualistic processes. Individuals can curate their Instagram appearance. In the same way, they can curate their custom pin collection.
This is another one of the reasons enamel pins have made such a splash on social media. Instagram both allows the individual to show off their style, but it also informs the style. People do not like being told how to dress themselves anymore. There are so many resources out there guiding people to finding what works for them. Enamel pins reflect that. Then, Instagram is soon to follow, and the cycle continues. People create, inspire and create more. Perhaps, this is why enamel pins have lasted so long.
The fact that they can be easily customized means they can evolve with the culture. They can reflect the needs and wants of people given the creativity remains. The proliferation of social media can only extend the life of enamel pins.
Instagram’s Online Pin Communities
One of the greatest traditions of enamel pins are their ability to build communities through trade and collection. We see it with Disney pin and sports pin trading tradition. We see the very same with Instagram. Mara Dressler, a former Cartoon network character designer, saw there is a strong virtual community of pin collectors. They are all drawn together by, you guessed it, “#pingame”. With how rapidly the pin industry is evolving, it is diffifcult to keep up with what’s new. More and more creators and designs are joining the pin community. Fortunately, Instagram ensures you can keep up with the industry.
On an obvious note, this helps creators and artists from around the world to connect with one another. This is a great way for artists to inform their own crafts. Moreover, it allows them to get a sense how their designs will play out on a larger field. Social media and the internet led pin creators to create New York’s first Pin and Patch Show. According to WMagazine, the entire event was organized via Instagram DM with 13 of New York’s independent artists. With over 2,000 people in attendance, the entire event could be deemed a success.
Now you know the value of enamel pins. They have been quiet, but long-lasting accessory that has a place in more than just fashion. They are treasured as signs of honor and respect in professional settings. However, now, custom pins are valuable to artists trying to share their craft. These pins can share art and bring personality to an individual’s outift. They can speak many languages and tell many stories. This is why enamel pins have taken to social media, especially Instagram. Through Instagram, enamel pins have continued to inspire other artists. Hopefully, in the future, it can inspire you to also take control of your creativity. I hope this article was of great help to you. If you have any questions or comments, please share them with us!
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker