Better Badges was a London button-badge manufacturer, started in 1976 by Joly MacFie. During the years 1977-1984 it became the leading publisher and merchandiser of 'punk badges' - exporting millions worldwide from their offices at 286 Portobello Road. Better Badges was a major player in the punk and postpunk scenes from 1976-1983 - a pioneer viral marketer, fueling the independent labels' fan-based promotional successes of the time.[1]

A short walk from Rough Trade, at the far end of Portobello beyond the Westway, stood the former premises of Sixties underground paper International Times. By the late Seventies it was occupied by a company called Better Badges. Wearing your allegiances--political or musical--on your lapels was the thing to do in those heady days, and Better Badges was the market leader. But the guy behind Better was no "breadhead." An original hippie who had worked as an editor at International Times and legendarily hadn't cut his locks since 1968, Jolyon McFie started an idealistic "print now/pay later" scheme to help fledgling fanzines like Jamming get off the ground. The editors could then lug the copies down the road to Rough Trade, whose burgeoning distribution network would get them into independent record stores across the nation.[2]


1976 4 July, First punk badges sold at The Ramones and Flamin' Groovies show at The Roundhouse, London. The Better Badges stand went on to become a fixture. Mail order service started. Slogan: "Image as virus, disease as cure"

1977 May, First mass-production of punk badges for sale at Mont de Marsan festival in France.

MacFie purchased a process camera, which, apart from badges was used by various artists for record cover art including Jamie Reid (Sex Pistols) and Stewart Copeland (Klark Kent). Commenced weekly badge top ten feature in NME.

1978 Better Badges expanded from its original location in a lock-up garage in St. Stephen's Mews into the top floor of 286 Portobello Road.

Better Badges published sets of badges for both U2 - their first ever commercial product,[3] and Rob Gretton's first act as manager of Joy Division was to order a set of badges from BB.[4][5]

Later, after discussions with Gretton, MacFie ended BB's unwieldy royalty system, moving to one where bands just got a flat donation of badges.[6][7]

1979 MacFie purchased in-house printing equipment which, in addition to badges, was used to produce many fanzines which BB also distributed. Titles included Jamming!,[8] No Cure and Panache[9] Promotional materials were also made for budding UK labels such as Mute Records and Rough Trade. Some artists, such as The Raincoats and Young Marble Giants used BB to publish small booklets.

MacFie bought an AM radio transmitter. Pirate radio broadcasts of mainly reggae eventually led to the formation of the Dread Broadcasting Corporation, which, under the leadership of Lepke, became the first major London urban pirate radio station.[10]

The Victoria and Albert Museum asked for, and received a practically complete set of the badges to date.

1980 Fanzines published included i-D,[11] Kill Your Pet Puppy, and Toxic Grafity, which included a flexi-single "Tribal Rival Rebel Revels" by Crass

MacFie bought a cassette tape-duplicator and started offering a cheap tape publishing service which was utilized by pioneering DIY labels such as Fuck Off Records[12]

1981 Better Badges gained an agent, Nancy Breslow of Short Newz, in NYC and started distributing both fanzines and badges in the USA.

1982 Suffering cash flow problems, BB was forced to vacate Portobello Road and move to premises in Bethnal Green.

1983 MacFie sold the business to the staff and left for the USA.

1985 The staff, in turn, sold it to the current owners, who ceased publishing, restricting activity to manufacturing only.


Many musicians, notable or otherwise, worked at Better Badges including Duncan Sanderson of the Pink Fairies, Neneh Cherry, Gabby Glaser of Luscious Jackson, Wayne Preston of Youth In Asia, Hamish Macdonald of Sex Beatles/Sexbeat, Val Haller of The Electric Chairs, Eric Débris of Métal Urbain, Angela Jaeger of Pigbag, Nick Godwin of Zounds, and John Walker of Warsaw Pakt.

Designers included Megan Green, Slim Smith - recently with Artrocker, and Derek Harris.


  1. 1980 article in The Face -Pt.1 | Pt.2 | Pt.3
  2. It Came from London - A virtual tour of Post-punk's roots Simon Reynolds, Time Out London, April 2005
  3. WWWhatsup U2 Pins
  4. Time Travel: From the Sex Pistols to Nirvana: Pop, Media & Sexuality 1977-96, Jon Savage, Vintage 1997, p. 363
  5. Gretton, Rob (14 Oct 2008). 1 Top Class Manager - The notebooks of Joy Division's manager 1978-1980. Anti-Archivists. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  6. WWWhatsup Joy Division Pins
  7. The Clash at Lyceum Ballroom 1981 includes former BB employee's reminiscenses of working the show. (scroll down about halfway).
  8. Jamming Magazine Covers 1-12
  9. Scissors and Glue:: Punk Fanzines and the Creation of a DIY Aesthetic Teal Triggs Oxford Journals Journal of Design History 2006 19(1):69-83.
  10. DBC story
  11. Trebay, Guy (2001-05-21). Front Row; Chronicling 20 years of renegade fashion as captured through the defining lenses of i-D magazine.. New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-03-25.
  12. Birth of the uncool Bob Stanley, The Guardian, 31 March 2006.

External links

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Better Badges, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Author(s): MarioNovi Search for "Better Badges" on Google
View Wikipedia's deletion log of "Better Badges"

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