Do you know the history of lanyards?


Lanyards are an everyday item that you probably have never given much thought to. Extremely versatile and a favourite of businesses across the world for their promotional and branding ability, whilst being extremely cost-effective, the lanyard has become a modern staple.

At its base principle, a lanyard is simply a strap for carrying objects and the humble beginnings of the lanyard reflect no difference, although their uses are radically different!

The history of lanyards is actually far more interesting than you may expect, with tales of danger on the high seas and military might. We have put together everything you need to know about lanyards and their history in this blog, so you can impress everyone with your lanyard knowledge in the future!

Lanyards – The name

The word lanyard comes from the French word ‘laniere’ which translates as strap or thong. Which is exactly what it is, regardless of the object hanging from the end of it. A common misconception when talking about lanyards, especially when in reference to identification, is that it must also mean the badge. This is not the case, ‘lanyard’ only refers to the strap itself, not any of the accessories or accoutrements.

Lanyards – The origins

The origins of the lanyard are believed to start in the 1700’s, when maritime endeavors and piracy were becoming an established part of the world order. As sailors often faced death from a wide range of sources, they had to be wily, resulting in some inspired pieces of ingenuity. When having to clamber up and fix rigging, often on storm-tossed seas, French sailors used straps to tighten the ropes and devised a way to carry their knives and marlin spikes which meant they had their hands free. A loop of rope and string around their tools tied together with a diamond knot formed the first lanyards. This became the established way to carry your items and was far safer for the sailors.

These early lanyards made their way up the ranks to the French military and became commonplace not just amongst their naval men, but throughout their entire cavalry. Cuirassiers, a unit of French cavalry, used a type of braided lanyard to hold their swords in place. But they were also frequently used to attach swords, pistols, and whistles (both at sea - called a bosun’s pipe - and on land for signalling purposes) to all military uniforms, not just the cuirassiers.

Lanyards became a mainstay of the military across the world when adopted by both British and American militaries. During World War two the British “gunners” used lanyards for firing artillery and arming the fuze mechanism on aircraft bombs. In America, a lanyard to attach pistols to a uniform is still in use today.

Although there is less use for regimental lanyards now, various militaries have adapted lanyards and turned them into recognition and ornamental uses. The use of colours often denote which regiment a soldier belongs or has belonged to, as well as to differentiate high ranking officials from the servicemembers, with most militaries now using them as decorative awards and honours for service i.e. The British Royal Artillery has white braided lanyards as part of their uniform to distinguish them from other regiments and the orange lanyard of The Military Order of William is the highest honour awarded by the Netherlands.

Lanyards – The modern approach

Nowadays, lanyards have far more uses than their sailing and military background. Industry has taken the simple design and adapted it for their own purpose. Large lanyards are used for safety reasons in the utilities industry to support workers when working at height. These are commonly called lineman lanyards, although they may sometimes be referred to as work positioning lanyards. An adjustable strap is attached to a harness or belt on the lineman using a carabiner (a strong metal clip.) The lineman will secure the lanyard around an attachment point, often a wooden pole or structure depending on the job and then tighten the strap. This enables them to be safely supported whilst leaving both hands free to use.

However, for most of us, when we think of lanyards, security and access is what comes to mind. Used by security personnel around the world in both the public and private sectors, printed lanyards allow members of security to be quickly identifiable.

This easy identification has also had a direct effect on the sales of lanyards for branding and promotional purposes. Lanyards can be customised with any design and are affordable to produce and purchase, making a lanyard an economically viable and popular advertising choice for businesses everywhere. The branding on a lanyard, especially at events and conferences, can increase your company’s exposure without the need for expensive publicity thanks to the visibility lanyards provide.

This more modern approach to lanyards may seem a million miles away from the origins of a lanyard, but actually, the purpose of a lanyard remains broadly the same, to carry things! So, we may use them in a different way, but every time you flash your identification badge or attach yourself to a safety lanyard, you are channeling the essence and reason for which lanyards were originally created.

Purchase your lanyards from Only Lanyards

If you are thinking about buying either lanyards or lanyard ID holders for your business or organisation, then please get in touch with us here at Only Lanyards. As well as lanyards to increase security, promotional and branding purposes or to improve visitor experiences, we also have a full range of designer lanyards if you are looking for something a little bit special. We also have a custom lanyard range to accommodate your own branding and information you would like to be prominently displayed.

Not only do we have a fantastic range of visitor lanyards and accessories, but if you cannot find what you are looking for, then you can contact us for a personalised quote on amounts and sizes, and we are happy to send you samples before you make your choice.

If you are interested in purchasing lanyards or accessories for yourself or your business or event, then we would love to hear from you. Even if you are unsure of what it is you would want or require, we can guide you through the process. Feel free to contact us directly by phone on 0333 271 0660 or by email at