As I pushed against the opposing tide down Broadway yesterday afternoon on my way home from work, I passed an individual who could have been my doppelganger. Despite graying at the temples and clearly expanding around the middle, this gent clearly harbored a fondness for the same age-old sartorial aesthetics that I cling to in my perpetual state of arrested development. Put simply, I still find myself dressing like a roadie for the Stranglers circa 1984, and so did this dude -- dusty Doc Martens, black jeans, a vaguely military-looking shirt and a battered black leather jacket festooned with 1" pins. As we approached each other, I believe he may have mistaken me for a potential assailant, when the truth of the matter is that I wasn't scowling contemptuously at him but rather squinting to try to read the band names on his lapels.
As I said back in this post, while I never really donned what became the conventional uniform of the punk rocker (seemingly an oxymoron, that), I wasn't entirely immune to its accoutrements. Beyond slavishly immersing myself in the music, I became a fervent collector of the ephemeral crap like t-shirts, flyers and 1" pins. For my purposes, boasting a 1" pin of my favorite band on the lapel of my jacket did as much to telegraph my affinity for the genre (and the accompanying disdain for mainstream, maaaaaaan) than any needlessly angular haircut might have done. For me, while all the sartorial/tonsorial window-dressing of punk rock (and new wave and hardcore and post-punk and goth and blah blah blah etc. etc.) may have indeed been a lot of fun, it all came back to the music and sentiments expressed therein. I just didn't think most of that other stuff was necessary, and I doubt anyone would have taken me seriously with a mohawk anyway (myself included). T-shirts and pins did the job fine for me.
I'm not sure it was initially a conscious thing, but I soon amassed a vast collection of these stupid 1" pins. At the time, they weren't too tough to come by. At shows in the 80s and early 90s at venues like the Ritz and Marquee, there was a guy who sold them for a buck a pop, all pinned to a massive white sheet he'd tack on the wall. You could get them at any number of shops downtown like Postermat on West 8th Street (long gone), CC & Star (a dumb heavy metal shop on MacDougal Street, also long gone), Bleeker Bob's (still there), Second Coming Records (long gone) and several other largely vanished emporiums.
The sporting of these pins, however, was an inexact science. Wear too many of them at a time and you invariably looked like some sort of over-enthusiastic fanboy or giddy pearly king with an extra chromosome, whereas sometimes one just didn't suffice. More to the point, these things were really small. Most of the time, unless a person was standing under a foot away from you, they'd never be able to make out what it was you were so pointedly showcasing on your chest. It might as well have been a boy scout's merit badge.
In any case, being the sentimental pack-rat that I am, I never parted with my pin collection. They now all reside in a big glass mason jar here on my desk (sprawled out in the picture below... click on it to enlarge). Every now and again I'll affix one to one of my garments, but I always feel silly doing so, being that it invariably has more resonance for me than for any curious passer-by. That's probably why I strain to read the ones I see on people in the street. If they're taking the time to wear them, the least I can do is acknowledge it.
I know people sell these things on eBay now, but I can't really see myself doing that. They're just another silly part of my youth and mementos from a bygone era. But it's nice to know there are folks my age oout there who still wear'em.