The British Museum's collections, £16.99
United Kingdom, 1971
The Smiley badge, showing a smiling face on a yellow background, originated in the USA at the end of the 1960s. Its meaning was broadly religious as it was part of a general 'feelgood' movement which expressed itself in the catchphrases 'Have a nice day' and 'Smile - Jesus Loves You'. In 1971 the Romford firm Anabas bought the licence for the design from a US company and registered it for use in the UK. Millions of badges were produced during a craze which lasted around nine months, and the design was copied widely with many variations. The Smiley badge had a resurgence of popularity in the UK during the so-called 'Second Summer of Love' in 1988, when the image became a symbol of the 'acid house' club scene which involved the widespread use of ecstasy and other dance drugs.
The availability of small badge-making machines now allows people to deliver very personal messages, or use badges as an artistic medium. Some such badges carry no obvious message and are worn as fashion statements. Others have humorous, cryptic or philosophical slogans, which sometimes subvert familiar images and phrases appearing on other badges.
P. Attwood, Status symbols: identity and b (London, British Museum Press, 2004)