Looking at i-D today you might not think it all started as a stapled fanzine in 1980, printed by a punk badge production company owned by Joly MacFie, an original hippie who famously hadn’t chopped his locks since 1968.
Better Badges began in 1976 with the ethos that if you have something to say, you should shout it from the rooftops. But in the pre-digital, cut-and-paste days, before the Seven Wonders of the Internet: Facebook, Youtube, Soundcloud, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Google, button badges were the way to go. Providing for the likes of Jamie Reid, Chrissie Hynde and Joy Division, Better Badges became London’s leading punk badge supplier and after acquiring printing equipment they went on to publish zines in their top floor Portobello Road studio and distribute them with a little help from local record store, Rough Trade. Still going strong today as A Better Badge, but concentrating solely on badges, not only advertising but promoting anti-war and championing charities, the company have created an archive of badge images and the people that wear them to celebrate its iconic history. Curated by Hanna Moon and Jet Swan, we scrolled through punk pics past and present, watched videos submitted of girls bumping and grinding to R.Kelly and spoke to Hanna and Jet about Joly, Madonna and Mariah Carey.
Why did you decide to collaborate with A Better Badge? We are a couple of friends from Central Saint Martins and our landlord John, who owns A Better Badge, asked us if we wanted to make something cool to promote their badges. Then we found out that they are the most amazing company with an insane past. Jolly MacFie who started Better Badge was a pioneer of music marketing: investing in printers and tape recorders to expose young music talent and print lo-tech publications and zines to sell in local stores. They produced the cover art for the Sex Pistols album Never mind the Bollocks. We wanted to continue with this spirit and get people hyped about badges, so we started the online archive.
Tell us a bit about the archive content. We started archiving badge images in September of this year. We archive any images that are cool and badgey, not just Better Badges’. We also get video submissions from our badge fans, often with some weird choreographed badge/music routine, which we love. We also hold an archive of actual badges from A Better Badge which we lend out to press and generally amazing people, and the V&A hold even more badges, some of the really rare designs by Jamie Reid.
What is your favourite badge/image from the archive? Chloe Sevigny wearing a ‘Jewish Power’ badge shot by Terry Richardson is 100% badge heaven.
What would a badge based on yourself say/look like? Look at me, I’m a Badge.
Button badges became relevant as a fashion statement during the Punk movement of the 70’s, do you think they are still relevant today? Definitely, in the 70′s it was a lot about band badges or slogan badges, right now people are really into purely visual badge statements. An image of a ten year old Rihanna in her school uniform is really popular, also people are going mad for block colour badges. I think it’s still about people wanting to say something, and the actual object of a badge carries that 70′s/80′s London spirit of shouting about something, in a really disposable way. It’s exciting and it gets the message across.
A Better Badge began as a badge and fanzine printing business, does it still have the same ethos today as it did then? A Better Badge doesn’t print fanzines anymore, but it’s our role to rejuvenate that 70′s MacFie ethos. We have got some exciting collaborations coming up and we are open to anything, as long as it’s fun! A Better Badge’s main man, John, says that “if it’s not fun and you’re not making any money there’s no point doing it”, we think that’s a pretty good rule to go by.
What other zines did A Better Badge print? ‘Kill Your Pet Puppy’ which was an amazing punk zine and ‘Toxic Grafity’.
Are there any around today that you think A Better Badge would be proud to print? Our own. We have a badge fanzine in the workings, and you can imagine what that’s about……!
If you could pin any badge on anyone, who would it be and what would it say? We would pin one to Mariah Carey’s ass – *TOUCH MY BODY* -
Who is the best/most interesting person A Better Badge has pinned a badge on?
♥♥♥ Madonna ♥♥♥