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How to Wear Military Lapel Pins Properly?

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

how to wear military lapel pins

If you’re a man or woman of service, you should know where to put the military lapel pin in your uniform or casual clothes to show passion and commitment.

Civilians alike should show the same respect to avoid embarrassing the brave people in the service. If you want to know how to wear military lapel pins, you’re on the right page.

The general rule is to put the military lapel pin on the left panel or collar of suits and uniforms. If you wear a tie without a jacket, consider putting them in the tie. Collarless shirts should have the pin attached at the left breast side.

Keep reading to learn more about proper lapel pin placement and more.

Step-by-step to Wear Military Lapel Pins


You can show your military lapel pins on special occasions of your service. The key is to find the right place to put a pin on a suit or uniform.

1. For civilian attire


On informal occasions, you can still wear a pin on a shirt or suit to show your patriotism. Here are steps on where to put the military service pins in your informal clothes.

  • Put the military pin on the upper part of your civilian suit jacket’s left lapel. Most of the time, suits have large lapel buttonholes for this purpose.

Insert the pin through the buttonhole. The enamel side should be in front of the hole while the sticking pin should be at the back, then clasp securely.

  • If you’re only wearing a shirt and a tie, place the pin close to the center of the tie. When following this method, you can only wear one or two pins at most. 
  • If you’re wearing a collarless shirt without a tie, put the pin on the left side of your chest close to the heart to show pride and support.

In this case, insert the pin directly into the fabric of the tie or breast side, then secure the clasp.

  • In any case, the suit lapel pin should run parallel to the collar and not upside down.

2. For military uniforms


It’s crucial that you have the proper placement of lapel pins in your uniform to practice proper etiquette. Here’s how you can place military pins on uniforms for both men and women.

  • As seen in the army pins chart above, the flag lapel pin needs to be on the left lapel of your uniform. It should be close to the heart to show great sincerity and patriotism for the country.
  • If you want to show your branch insignia badge, place it just above the flag lapel pin.
  • For veterans, attach the retained lapel pin on the left lapel of your uniform. 
  • Pierce the fabric of your lapel with the pin and clasp it tightly to keep it in place.

Besides wearing the military pins on the left collar, you can also opt for tie pins and hat pins to display different military insignia.

The DOD lapel pin can even be attached to the bag to show pride in the organization. You can wear your medals and badges on more formal occasions. 

If you’re an officer, attach your rank insignia to the right shoulder of your uniform. Pin the letter branch insignia of where you belong into the right collar and your nameplate at the right breast pocket. Combat badges and service ribbons go above the left breast pocket, while the skill badges should be at the left breast pocket’s flap.

Etiquette for Wearing Military Lapel Pins

Military uniform pins are valuable for the US military to show patriotism and signify a special rank. Whether you’re active military personnel, retired, or simply anyone who wants to show support, you’ll need to follow the proper military lapel pin etiquette.

Here are the basic rules for lapel pins:

  • Wear the military lapel pins on military burials, weddings, inaugurations, and other military-themed ceremonies. You can also wear it on commemorative occasions like military parades and Veterans Day. 
  • For veterans, always wear the proper uniform while donning the pin. Make sure that you’re clean-shaven when wearing the uniform.
  • Wear the nameplate pin above the right breast pocket.
  • Place the flag pin on the left lapel or close to the heart.
  • Clasp the pin tightly to keep it in its right position the whole day.
  • As a respectful way to display the military insignia, make sure that it’s in the correct location, and it’s properly aligned.
  • Wear the flag pin upside-down. This may make others think you’re against the country. 
  • Wear the pins while wearing a costume or sports apparel—this is considered disrespectful.
  • Wear skill badges when wearing civilian attire.
  • Wear shiny pins during combat because it’s just going to get in your way. Instead, consider using patches.

Types of Military Lapel Pins


Identifying military pins is easy if you know the different logos of each army branch. You can acquire the pin if you’re on the service, but if you’re simply an ordinary person, you can get it customized. Here are the different army lapel pins meaning for every unit.

  • Air Force: The design of these pins usually shows wings to indicate that the members fly a plane. The current Air Force staff uses a pin with the wings of a bird, while the air force retirement pin looks a lot simpler with fewer colors and details. 
  • Army: The US Army lapel pin often has a white star logo with black background. Some variations also come with a US flag or a National Guard Military logo.
  • Marine Corps: The Marines use a variety of lapel pin designs, from the round emblem to the anchor and a cross of two flags.
  • Navy: The popular pin design of this branch is a crossover of the US flag and the Navy flag. There’s also a design of a flying eagle.
  • Veterans: A veteran lapel pin can come in many styles. You can choose from a US flag to a crossover of two waving American flags.

Where to Find Authentic Military Lapel Pins


You can find genuine military lapel pins on online sites like eBay. McGuire Army Navy also offers authentic military pins issued by the US Air Forces. More sites offer a wide selection of military lapel pins, like Gettysburg and Military Best.

Here are the tips for selecting appropriate military collar pins.

  • Choose something not larger than ½-inch in diameter. Picking a larger pin might look too showy.
  • If you want to be subtle, pick a color that matches your clothes. Opt for a distinct color if you’re not afraid to be bold, like red for a black suit.
  • Get a pin that’s appropriate for your service or allied support. If you’re a US Navy or a supporter of the Navy, choose a US Navy pin.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can civilians wear military pins?

Before, a military pin was restricted for military personnel as a sign of their service and rank. But today, anyone can wear a military lapel pin, as long as the intention is sincere to show support and loyalty.

How do I clean and maintain my military lapel pin?

Keep the shine of your silver pins with a silver polish. Apply the polish on a soft cotton cloth and wipe it onto the pin carefully. You can use any special jewelry polish as long as it’s gentle without any abrasives. 

For enamel pins, a soft cloth is enough. Simply rub the pin with the cloth gently to remove any dirt and dust.

Can I wear multiple lapel pins at once? How?

Yes, it’s totally fine to wear multiple lapel pins in your uniform. You can put the flap lapel pin at the left collar, the nameplate pin on the flap of the right breast pocket, and the branch insignia pin on the right lapel.

If you’re an officer, you can wear your rank pin on top of your right shoulder. Combat badges and pins should be on the left side above the pocket.

Can I wear lapel pins with medals and ribbons?

Yes, you can wear medal lapel pins and ribbons together, as long as you’re using unit ribbons. The lapel pins go to the left panel, the medals to the left side, and the unit ribbons to the right. Make sure that you use miniature medals and ribbons to avoid overcrowding your outfit. 

Specific guidelines also prohibit the use of ribbons together with medals in evening suits and jackets. You only need to wear miniature medals – a few with the highest honors will do.


At this point, I hope that you know how to wear military lapel pins in your clothes and uniform. Make sure that you choose the right insignia for your purpose. If you’re a serviceman, choose the pin that signifies your branch and rank.

With the popularity of military pins today, civilians also can wear a simple flag pin to show support and patriotism. Make sure that your intentions are sincere. Regardless of what type of pin you use, secure it tight so that it will stay in place while you’re doing other activities.

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