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July-September 2001

Pinback Buttons

Recently a lot of kids at school and about town seem to be wearing pinback buttons. Some attach them to their bags or caps, others to their T-shirts, and some even wear them on their jeans. There is an amazing variety of designs, from simple text to manga (Japanese cartoon) characters, abstract pictures, and photos of themselves or their pets. Pins up to about 5 centimeters (2 inches) wide are available, but the most popular size is around 3 centimeters (1.2 inches).

A ninth-grade boy with some pinbacks on his backpack said, "The bag looks a bit boring if there's nothing on it, and I like music, so I put on pins featuring the logos of my favorite artists." He bought most of the pins at live concerts of independent rock bands but says they are also on sale at his local used clothes store.

A group of seventh-grade girls with various small stuffed toys and pinbacks attached to their schoolbags said that they bought the pins from accessory shops and toy stores. "They also look cute if you pin them to a plain jacket or T-shirt," said one. "It looks nice if you mix pins of different designs and sizes," added another. One of the features of pinback fashion is that people wear not one but several at the same time.

Pinback buttons themselves are not new, but it was in spring this year that the habit of wearing them began to spread among young people. Famous pop stars like Ayumi Hamasaki and Hitomi have appeared on TV and in children's fashion magazines sporting pinbacks, which has helped to spread this trend all over Japan.

Since the pinback boom began, some shops have reserved special sections for pinbacks, more and more online pinback stores have appeared, and some stores will even make pinbacks according to your own designs, regardless of the number you order. There are also pin vending machines, and pins are given away free with magazines, as prizes in quizzes, or as souvenirs of certain events. In May, a popular rock group called Love Psychedelico used a photo of pins as the cover of its new CD.

Most pinbacks are quite cheap, costing from 100 to 200 yen (0.83 to 1.67 U.S. dollars at 120 yen to the dollar), so they are easy to collect. Easy to mix and match to express your individuality and fashion sense, the popularity of pinbacks is sure to grow further.

Photo: Pinback buttons are a fun and cheap way to add individuality to one's clothes, bags, or caps.