The History of Lanyards: From Swashbucklers to Security

When you think of the word “lanyard” what comes to mind for most people is a cord that you put around your neck to hold an event pass or ID badge. And, while that’s one of the most common uses of the lanyard, especially in corporate settings, lanyards aren’t a new invention. In fact, the history of the lanyard is actually quite colorful, exciting and adventurous.


the history of the lanyard

Ahoy Mateys! Lanyards Ahead

Lanyards have a pretty daring past. They were first used by French soldiers and pirates in the early 1500’s as a means to keep their weapons close at hand when climbing the rigging of their ships or engaging in combat. The word lanyard comes from the French word “laniere” which means strap or thong.

Though we are used to seeing some pretty fancy lanyards today, the first were simple straps made of rope or cord found aboard the ship and tied around a pistol, sword or whistle. Soldiers could even be seen using lanyards to attach pistols to their uniform throughout WWII.

As time went on, lanyards were developed with specific attachments which made it easier to switch out weapons, tools and other objects making them functional in both military and civilian life.

The Art and Application of Lanyards in Modern Times

Lanyards still serve a very functional purpose today, but have also become more decorative. They are popular as a craft and also as security device in the corporate world. For instance, lanyard weaving became a popular craft for French and American children during the 1950’s.

As a craft, lanyard weaving teaches children how to create complex knots such as the box knot, Chinese knot, triangle and butterfly knot, as well as develop manual dexterity. In France, the craft became known as “scoubidou” (and yes, the cartoon character is named after the craft) and is known in the U.S. as “boondoggle”.

Going back to military applications of the lanyard, they too took on a more decorative function. Perhaps you’ve seen military officers with a colored braid at their shoulder? This is actually a lanyard used to denote a rank or award achieved by the officer and is represented by the color, type of braid and side of the body it is worn on. These types of lanyards can become quite complex in terms of the types of knots and braiding used in their creation.

modern lanyards use branding to stand out

In the corporate world and event passes industry, lanyards are used as a means to display an ID badge or access pass. Lanyards make it easy to maintain security at events and corporate sites because a visibly displayed pass allows others to see who people are, what organization they belong to and what level of access they have.

Lanyards also serve another very important function at events: corporate branding. Companies use lanyards as a medium for printing their logo on and using them as promotional items and morale boosters both within and outside of their organization. As an item that can be used for a variety of functions from holding ID badges to keys, they are undoubtedly one of the most useful items to print your logo on for attaining further brand recognition.

So, the next time you’re at a corporate event, concert or convention – remember that the lanyard you’re wearing is more than just strap designed to display your event pass. It’s a functional work of art with a rich history and an adventurous past.

Posted on December 2, 2014 and filed under Lanyard Uses.