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Gothic Pins

Pins are a quick, easy and affordable way to customise a jacket or a bag. There are lots and lots of designs available from a variety of retailers, and they only cost a few pounds each. Over a couple of years I've amassed a collection of my favourites.

Gothic pins on a jacket lapel

The big fashion brands Killstar and Sourpuss both have a good selection of pins. Many of their pin designs are also available as patches. Killstar's pins are normally occult-themed and silver-coloured with black enamel, echoing the monochrome look of most of their other products. Sourpuss's pins likewise fit their brand, and are generally bright, bold and horrorpunk-influenced with a 50's B-movie vibe.

Killstar's In Memory of my Social Life gravestone pin was the one that started my pin collection: it spoke to me after I'd spent an October half-term with my girls, barely leaving the house. I really don't get out much, especially when they're on holiday. The Killstar cat and soot pins reminded me of two Studio Ghibli films: Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro. The Sourpuss Moon and Bats pin glows in the dark.

The UK-based jewellery company Mysticum Luna was established in 2014. Their pin range is one of my favourites so far; you can see how many I have bought! They currently produce and ship their own enamel pin designs monthly (their 'Pinscription'), selling any remainder through their website. They cover a range of occult, horror and witchy themes, and take advantage of their subscription model to offer seasonal pins, like the black-leafed holly pin pictured. They also sell a black flag you can hang on a wall for displaying your pin collection. For more information about their jewellery, take a look at my article: Mysticum Luna Gothic Jewellery (and Dark Dwelling Remixes).

Spooky Box Club are another favourite UK pin producer, making very nice pins as part of their subscription service. Each themed box usually has one. I haven't signed up for the boxes as I'm too fussy for mystery boxes, but luckily you can buy items individually from their website, albeit at a much higher price. I like their various black and silver designs a lot, but I love their silver-coloured pins inspired by Victorian mourning art and coffin plates.

Emporium 32 (Salem, Mass. USA), Nothing Pins (USA) and Manière Noire (Canada) are three other pin producers who are inspired by funereal art. Emporium 32 go so far as to identify the exact gravestone that their design is based upon, and their pins are available to the UK market via October 31st, although they do ship internationally themselves. Some of Manière Noire's pins - like the daggers and skeleton key designs I purchased - are intended to be worn as a pair on lapels or collars.

My other pins in the images below are from Life Club (UK), Bird Ov Prey (USA) and Lively Ghosts (USA).

The pins sold by Life Club and Bird Ov Prey are mostly monochrome: black/silver or black/gold. Life Club's themes are possibly described as 'dark, weary, defiant fatalism'. Bird Ov Prey often incorporates occult symbolism and my two pins are based on cathedral windows; the narrower one (and the patch) is inspired by a song by Coil called Titan Arch.

Lively Ghosts' pins are mostly inspired by horror films; my ones representing The Shining and Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Lively Ghosts also sell horror-themed, coffin-shaped pin boards, but they sell out incredibly quickly and import fees (they're based in the USA) are a killer.

One thing I wasn't expecting when I started looking for pins was just how ubiquitous they are now: flags, pop culture characters, politics, slogans etc. If you can think of it, there's a fair chance you can find a related pin. Disney has released thousands of pins based on their intellectual property - including lots for the Nightmare Before Christmas - selling them as souvenirs and for trading between collectors. I'm not really sure if my two NBC pins are originals or copies; I strongly suspect they are copies.

Speaking of copies, I think I've identified the artist behind the unbranded Forever Ever skeleton couple pin (shown on the jacket lapel photo, above). It's Chris Bourke, a linocut artist / lino printmaker. For a short while he sold pins identical to mine, based on one of his original prints, but they were a limited run. I reckon mine is a very faithful 'reproduction'. I've seen poorer quality versions online too. Since starting my pin collection I've learned that pin design plagiarism is a real problem for artists. I do try to buy directly from the designer(s) now. Attempting to make amends I've linked to his blog below, and I encourage you to look at his work.

The mass-produced nature of these pins might put some people off, as it may feel like they lack the 'authenticity' of a music-themed collection built over time, bought from gigs and festivals. Truthfully, across the board, alternative fashion items are more mass-produced, commercialised and easier to come by than fifteen or twenty years ago, and there is less need to DIY as a result. On the plus side, the sheer range of items available now - clothing and accessories like these - means darkly-inclined individuals at least have choice when shopping, and we can express our tastes better, rather than all picking the one vaguely subculturally-styled item on offer. Individual style can still emerge, taking advantage of the big brands, small and new businesses, and embracing the DIY ethos. I think it is a positive thing that the aesthetic is accessible. We can also appreciate when someone's put the effort into refining it.