Later this week, I’m going to be going to DragonCon, a sci-fi and fantasy convention of impressive magnitude and broad scope. There will be stars of stage, page and screen; events and parties worth telling people about 10 years later; and there will be costumes. Oh, the costumes.
What I’ll miss, however, are the buttons.
I’ve been doing cons since I was 15, off and on. I’ve been to small and large ones. A staple I still see at some smaller ones, but almost never at the big ones and more, are the button mongers. Buttons were a predecessor for Twitter for geeks, little pithy sayings or pictures you could pin to your t-shirt to speak your fandom or your attitude or anything else you could fit onto something the size of the lid to a jelly jar.
I remember that buttons were once part of the geek uniform, so much so that occasionally you’d see someone wearing a jacket covered in so many it had become a sort of sassy armor plate; button-mail.
Now, this common sight has been replaced with t-shirts from Snorg and Woot, which is just as well, but not nearly as personal, I think. I used to have a few custom ones: “The Crow said ‘Don’t Look'”, “That which does not kill us comes back with bigger guns”, “Make a friend today, wear pettable underwear”, “Lowly Worker Peon Scum”.
That last one was inspired by a friend, who is now a monk, who used to manage a theater. I still have it.
Geekdom has become more and more mainstream, such that there aren’t that many people who haven’t heard of San-Diego Comicon or some other similar gathering, even if it isn’t in their city. With this normalization has come greater marketing opportunities. Social media has offered better opportunities for being clever; why pin it to your shirt so it can be seen by a few, when you can use it as a caption on a picture of a cat and have it seen by millions?
But still I liked those cheap ass badges of fanboy cred. I miss not being able to rely upon the presence of someone hawking them at every event. I respect those who have managed to hold onto their collection, usually elder fanboys and fangirls who you can hear coming down the hall, their favorite snippets of wit clattering against their vests and jackets.
You still see a few at Hot Topic. Like everything else, maybe someone will pick them up for sake of nostalgia. Either that, or someone will decide that perhaps Twitter isn’t the best way to advertise “Free Hugs: Kinky stuff, extra”.