Style is in the eye of the beholder. So maybe you think that wearing all of your awards, or maybe just your most important awards on your suit jacket lapel is acceptable. You might even think, “Hey the more ribbons I have on my suit jacket, the better chance I have of impressing someone during an interview or career fair because they’ll see what I’ve done while in the military.” You might even be on to something, except for the fact that to the rest of the world (including to many of your fellow veterans), you look like as pompous and idiotic as a third world dictator.
Unfortunately too many veterans and those in the military wear lapel pins incorrectly. That’s ok. The military taught you many great things, fashion sense just wasn’t one of them. Fortunately for you, the Original Inveterate Veteran, aka The Jewish Tailor, is here to help.
So let’s look at what the lapel region of your suit jacket is for. What we now call the “lapel pin” started off as something more significant, a brooch. Brooches were used as a way to hold your clothes together and eventually served as way to show affiliation or social rank.
During the Medieval times as brooches gave way to buttons as a means to fasten clothes, brooches became purely a symbolic badge that showed professional affiliation, cultural rank, or family/clan/house.
The lapel pin is today’s modern badge. Your lapel is not a place for a resume of your achievements, but rather it is the quick elevator pitch by which you gain confidence through affiliation. Therefore follow these simple steps when choosing a lapel pin to wear:
- Size matters: Too big and it looks like a joke. Too small and it is unrecognizable.
- There are only four shapes acceptable: round, oval, square, rectangle.
- “Retired” is a non-starter: If you’re at an interview or career fair, having a pin that says “Retired” anywhere on it, is an immediate no-go.
- Save the miniature medals for tuxedos: You didn’t normally wear medals on your uniform, you wore ribbons. Your suit is your uniform, your tuxedo is your dress uniform.
- Match your lapel pin to your suit: Your lapel pin is part of your suit, it needs to match what you are wearing. Colors matter.
- Keep your rack at home: Unless you’re in a tuxedo at a military/veteran event, keep your rack proudly displayed in your home, where it belongs.
- Have meaning: Make sure that the lapel pin that you choose to wear has meaning for both you and a meaning that is easily understood by non-veterans.