Is it to hoard them? Is it to collect them? Is it a way to identify a friend or ally? Heck, is it a way to identify yourself? The fact is, it is all of the above. Pin badge culture in relation to football is similar to it’s relation to music, it is a fashion sense without being the incessant, obnoxious scream in somebody’s face. It is something a bit more subliminal, hidden and tasteful. It is a subtle way to establish yourself as part of a group or belonging, it is a way to attach some physical identity to a memory – it is this notion that can make them quite cultish pieces of memorabilia.
Badges come in and out of fashion meaning that they bring in new designs each time, they can become collected pieces upon certain die hard friends and when looking at badges from the 80s, the correlation between casual 80s football culture and pin badges is remarkable. Badges often being more disguised, smaller ways of identifying certain fans within certain groups and movements. However, as we all understand and accept nowadays, football has moved on from what it used to be, nonetheless, these badges still remain important pieces of fashion nowadays. It is often, these more dated badges that are now worn like trophies, branded upon jumpers, jackets or hats as testament to the individuals’ dedication to the team.
From being a Hull City fan from a young age, I vividly remember the bloke stood outside the gate of Boothferry Park at 1:30pm on a Saturday who would flog these, screaming at the top of lungs in order to get the message across: “£2.50, match day badges.” Although it still exists to an extent, it is certainly a fashion that seems to have tailed off to an extent, nowadays many fans are forced to the likes of eBay in order to pick these tokens of history up. After watching the likes of Celtic and Liverpool play on television in the past when I was youngster, I can place nostalgic, hazy memories upon both clubs’ ‘Badgeman’ character. The bloke who was head to toe in badges, you can only imagine the memories and stories behind each one.
Essentially that’s what badges can become, whether bought at games, scrounged off mates, parents or your parents’ friends, they become memories. They become trophies of past experiences, each one representing a different day, an alternative beer, another train ride – it’s the sentiment attached to each one that gives badge culture the immortal life it upholds. Of course, shirts and scarves hold the same sentiment, however shirts are seasonal, scarves when worn everyday can become a bit irritating, badges change on a day to day basis, each one small enough to remain relevant at all times. Personally, I wear mine on a scruffy parka jacket, it is the fact they all sit on at the same time and are small enough to be tateful. Each one having it’s own memory jog.
Personally, this is what Whitehawk FC can now provide for me, the satire behind badges carries sentiment, for example the ‘Whitehawk Rats’ – obviously in relation to Eastbourne Borough’s comments after the match on Boxing Day last year. The array of ‘Whitehawk Ultras’ badges brings with it a collectors nature, each one having it’s own message and symbol, each one as important as the last. As times progress, these badges become more important and vital, and after getting off a train in Riga, Latvia, I understand the sadness of losing them. A badge is a badge, but each one you wear with pride. A pin back memory.
Words by Tom Churchill