The Crazy History of Badge Lanyards

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You see it around nearly everywhere. Students and employees are required to wear them. You’ve probably owned at least one in your lifetime.


LanyardsA lanyard is a long piece of material, usually in the form of a rope or cord, which can be worn around the neck, shoulder, or wrist to carry an object. One of the most common types you see today is the badge lanyards. These are used to hold identification cards (ICs or ID cards). But do you know where they came from?

First, it was a strap.

According to the Random House Dictionary, the word “lanyard” originated from 15th century France. At this time, the word “lanière” was used to denote a strap or thong. Originally, lanyards were used to tighten and lash ship riggings.

Then, it was something like a stapler: it attached two things semi-permanently.

Later on, the word evolved to mean something which connects a pistol, whistle, or sword almost permanently to a uniform. Lanyards were often used in situations where individuals would be likely to lose objects, such as in the cavalry and in the navy.

Well-made pistol lanyards were those that could be easily removed and reattached by the user, but must stay in place while the pistol is being drawn or still in the holster.

Then, it was something that just looked cool.

There was a time when lanyards were used more for their aesthetic appeal than functional use. Variously colored and braided lanyards were used by military officers as indications of their regimental affiliation and rank.

Best of all, they developed a dual purpose.

Mounted regiments wore their lanyards on the left shoulder, which allowed them to pull their whistles from their left tunic pocket and communicate with other members of the regiment. British Royal Artillery members also wore lanyards which carried keys for adjusting explosive shell fuses.

Today, it’s diverged.

Lanyards today come in many types, forms, sizes, and materials. These variations often depend on the end-purpose of the consumer. Common lanyards are made from nylon, polyester, paracord, silk, braided leather, or polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Lanyards can still be worn as ornamental devices: the Orange Lanyard of the Dutch Military Order and the German Armed Forces Badge of Marksmanship are examples of these. Lanyards can also be used to carry electronic devices, such as cameras, cellular phones, or data sticks (USB devices). Some safety straps found on industrial cutting machines are actually lanyards. And do you know that strap that keeps linemen from falling? Yes, you guessed it. Those are lineman lanyards.

And the badge lanyards?

These are probably the most common, and most known, lanyards used today. Badge lanyards are often used to display ID cards or name badges both for formal institutions like work, prison, hospitals, and schools, and for public gatherings, like symposia, concerts, trade fairs, and conventions. They are often made from tough material that’s either flat and thick, or thin and braided.

Usually, a plastic pouch with at least one clear side is attached to the lanyard. The ID or name badge is inserted into this plastic pouch, with the person’s name (and often, picture) facing the front. Sometimes, small items like business cards can be hidden behind the ID for easy retrieval. Accessories can also be added to lanyards for easy attachment of pens or tools. Oftentimes, lanyards are also used like key chains, especially in situations where keys can be easily lost. This includes gyms, public pools, and communal showers.

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