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Men's accessories: Fancy a hat beard for that buttonhole?

February 9, 2012 | 12:09 pm

Lapel pin choices
In the run-up to writing a piece on men's lapel pins (it's in this month's Los Angeles Times Magazine), I've been paying particular attention to what some of the more fashion-forward fellows have been accessorizing with, and have come away impressed with some of the creative repurposing I've seen.

I found one of my favorites at a recent party where, in addition to a surfeit of stylish ready-made lapel pins (think jeweled bugs, leather flowers and the like), stylist Miles Siggins (who's lengthy resume includes a long-running stint on a little show called "American Idol," and who still works with host Ryan Seacrest) was sporting a flourish of fabric in his breast pocket and pinned securely in place by a pale pink stone. Higgins explained to us that the stone was actually a repurposed earring that had once belonged to his grandmother -- a back story that makes it both stylish and darling.

Personally, I've been wearing a lapel pin with a bit of a back story as well -- though a markedly different one. When I was back home in Vermont for the holidays, I found some cool-looking hat pins at the Orvis flagship store in Manchester, one of which was a perfect addition to my left lapel.

Orvis has been carrying the pins since about 2006, according to a company representative, and they've apparently been a steady seller ever since. They provided me the following account of how the pins ended up in the merchandise mix:

We do some business with a company based in Germany,  the owner is an avid hunter and had a St. Hubertus deer pin on one of his hunting hats. (St. Hubertus is the patron saint of hunters, the image of the deer was made famous in the U.S. by being on the label of Jagermeister bottles.) We asked the significance of the pin and where he got it, the story was told over a few  Kellerbiers, (I will not do the teller the injustice of trying to recapture it in an email), and we quickly came to the conclusion that our customers might enjoy this kind of authentic and traditional accessory. 

What intrigued me though, was the description of the pins as "hat beards" (anyone who knows me knows that headgear and facial hair are two of my favorite topics) which prompted me to purchase one on the spot. The odd description made more sense after subsequent research revealed that the German word for the hat pins is "gamsbart" (literally "chamois beard"), and they are traditionally made from the tufts of hair on the chamois' lower neck -- though today they're made from various animal hair -- with one end crimped into an ornamental metal setting.

But the best part is, as the folks at the online outfitter Bavarian-Lederhosen explain it: "The size of a Gamsbart is very important and depends on the men's pride and manliness since Gamsbärte are exclusively for men's hats."

I don't know about you, but I'll probably never look at a lapel pin the same way again.

RELATED:

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Barack Obama removes his U.S. flag lapel pin one more time

-- Adam Tschorn

Left photo: George Esquivel floral lapel pins ($95 to $175). Credit: Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times

Right photo: Outdoor outfitter Orvis sells a selection of hat pins ($19 to $39) -- most of which can do double-duty as a lapel pin, with an interesting back story to boot.  Credit:  Orvis

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