When you think of lanyards, you are probably most inclined to think of the cords people wear around their necks, usually to display an ID badge. The ubiquitous security passes worn around large offices, often held on by a lanyard, the press pass of a photographer at a major sports event, on a lanyard, the VIP pass that gets you backstage at a concert, worn on a lanyard, and so on. In actual fact, before they became common as promotional devices with logos all over them for people to wear at work and at events, lanyards were actually used on ships and in the military. Lanyards would be used to hold pistols, and also to secure items on ships that could move around as the ship crossed the waves. Lanyards were and are also used by military bands to support instruments like bugles.
The word “lanyard” actually just refers to a cord worn around the neck or wrist that is attached to something, either to stop it getting lost or for other purposes. Lanyards are attached to the “dead man’s switch” of a lot of machinery, from industrial vehicles to gym treadmills, so that if the operator becomes suddenly unable to operate the machine the machine will automatically be switched off when their arm drops. Lanyards are also commonly seen worn by sports coaches to hold their whistles, and even the strap on the Wii remote (which the device constantly reminds you you must have on) is a kind of lanyard, which stops the controller flying out of your hand while you play (without it, as a friend discovered to their cost, it can slip out of your hand and crash into your TV).
Lanyards first started being used as corporate items as security on business sites began to become more important and as people started to need to carry around small electronic devices like phones, USB memory sticks and cameras. Now they most commonly feature some sort of customisation by way of branding or advertising, and are worn all the time by a lot of people when in their professional roles.
Because they are so useful both to the wearer as a way of keeping small items from getting lost and having ID badges on display, and to businesses as a subtle way of reinforcing brand recognition by way of some discreet logos, lanyards are very popular in the bespoke corporate merchandise market. They are cheap to produce, and can almost endlessly be customised with different combinations of fabric and print styles.
From their beginnings as necessary fastenings for ships and guns to their popularity as promotional items for holding technological gadgets and security badges, lanyards have been around for a long time and are now a very common sight indeed.
This article looks at how modern lanyards used as ID badge holders and to carry small items originated as cords used on ships and in the military. It discusses their development as a corporate promotional aid.