Why are they called lanyards? Who made the first lanyard?

french soldier

The origins of the lanyard go far beyond the typical thought of a cord for holding your ID badge. That is among the most common uses of the lanyard, but they have actually been around for centuries. Their history is actually quite colourful and exciting, so read on for a brief background to the lanyard.

Humble beginnings

The first use of the lanyard comes from French soldiers and privateers in the late 15th century. It enabled them to keep their weapons close at hand whilst climbing their ships’ rigging or entering combat. The word originates from the French word ‘lanière’, which means ‘strap’. Those original lanyards were simple straps made from cord or rope found on the ship, tied around a weapon or a whistle. Some soldiers still carried lanyards with their uniforms in the Second World War, albeit with more specific attachments designed for carrying objects in both military and civilian life.

Expanding uses

As the popularity of the lanyard grew, particularly in the 20th century, they retained their functional purpose whilst also becoming more decorative. Lanyard weaving became a popular craft to teach American and French children in the 1950s. It teaches children to create complex knots like the Chinese knot, box knot, triangle and butterfly knots. It also helps develop manual dexterity, and the UK has recently seen a resurgence of the French craft ‘scoubidou’, which is essentially the same process as how lanyards were made in the mid-20th century.

As for their decorative purpose, you will often see military officers with a coloured braid at their shoulder. This is actually a special lanyard applied to denote rank or award, defined by the colour, the type of braid and the side it is worn on. These lanyards can be quite elaborate, with highly sophisticated knots used in their creation.

A cultural icon

So the next time you attend a corporate event, concert or festival, remember that the printed lanyards you are wearing comes from a rich history and tradition that stretches back hundreds of years. It’s a functional piece of art that has played a role in shaping civilisation as we know it.

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