Show us you care: the rise of good cause labelling

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

It's no longer enough just to give: you must wear your support on your sleeve (or lapel, wrist, etc)

There was a time when giving to charity was on the list of those things best done in private. Today, in an age of Facebook status updates and ostentation, it's the done thing to wear your donation with pride. It is particularly noticeable at this time of year. You might, for example, see a colleague sporting what appears to be an ailing rodent on their top lip. If it's a he, it's more than likely he is doing it for Movember, an annual event that originated in Australia, in which groups of men compete to grow moustaches to raise money for men's health charities.

Then there's the poppy appeal. Once worn in the days leading up to Remembrance Sunday, it has recently been near-ubiquitous for up to a fortnight a year. For television presenters, it is practically compulsory from 1 November onwards, and so far, 14 (of 20) Premier League clubs have had poppy symbols on their shirts in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday. Those who choose not to can expect to be asked why.

Sam Delaney, an author and broadcaster, is a poppy wearer ("It's a good cause and it adds a bit of panache to my autumn wardrobe," he says), but believes that charity accoutrements often say more about the wearer than about the causes themselves.

"Most people who are into charity are usually quite private about their giving," he says. "This is the complete opposite – like wearing a T-shirt saying 'I'm a good person'. Most of these are good causes, so it does sometimes seem strange to feel you have to demonstrate your support for them; it's like saying, 'I'm really against cancer or poverty.'"

But questioning the surge in similar causes, he adds, is a tricky issue. "Just because you find self-satisfied people growing moustaches annoying does not mean you're pro-testicular cancer. I'd rather make a private donation and keep shaving every morning."

Ribbons have symbolised a variety of different causes over the years. The current trend for small loops is believed to have its roots in the ribbons worn for Aids charities that came to public prominence in the early 1990s. A bewildering array is now available. In March, supporters of Marie Curie Cancer Care can wear one of the charity's daffodils on their lapels, while various other breast cancer charities have adopted pink to be worn at charity events and during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Then there are wristbands. The Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong launched his bright yellow ones in 2004, for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. They became so popular that they were soon being faked and, a little later, imitated.

All of which poses a dilemma for those who dislike being told what to wear, or to which mast to nail their colours. Jon Snow, the face of Channel 4 News, has attracted criticism (but also praise) for his opposition to "poppy fascism". "I am begged to wear an Aids ribbon, a breast cancer ribbon, a Marie Curie flower..." he has blogged. "From the Red Cross to the RNIB, they send me stuff to wear to raise awareness, and I don't. And in those terms, and those terms alone, I do not and will not wear a poppy."

The cultural commentator Stephen Bayley is another ribbon refusenik. "Sadists, bankers and robbers do not enter a state of grace because 50p buys a token of selfless generosity and touching sentiment to pin on a lapel," he says. "Besides, subtlety reaches deeper levels of the psyche than ostentation. It is so very much more impressive to give away lots and say nothing at all about it."

But Peter Tatchell, director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, which promotes human rights, argues that awareness is all-important for charities. "Wearing a charity symbol should not be about seeking public affirmation of one's generosity," he says. "Its real value is in raising the public visibility and awareness of individual charitable causes, especially the smaller, lesser-known ones. The symbols often become a talking point, enabling the wearer to explain and promote the charity, encouraging more people to donate."

It seems there is a thin line between awareness and the many companies who seek to benefit in the profit and PR stakes from marketing products associated with charitable causes. What could be better if you want a Le Creuset cake stand, than to buy its special-edition pink one created in honour of breast cancer charities? But you might be less keen if you realised that of the £50 cost of the stand, only £1.25 (on average) of every sale goes to charity.

Or why not spend £59.95 on one of Kleshna's jewel-encrusted poppies? Except that, with only 10 per cent of the proceeds going to the Royal British Legion, it's arguable that it might be better just to give a bigger donation and forget the fancy symbol.

Piggybacking a product on a good cause is known in the US as "pinkwashing". The group Breast Cancer Action, which is critical of the practice, has targeted companies such as Ford, Mercedes and BMW, which claim to support breast cancer charities but make products linked to cancer. It reserved some of its strongest criticism for the fast-food outlet KFC, which produced a pink chicken bucket for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, despite the fact that high-fat diets are associated with the disease.

Most paradoxically of all, Americans wishing to prove themselves especially good people through charitable accessorising had a chance this year to spend $619 on a Smith & Wesson M&P9 JG – a 9mm handgun with striking pink "grip inserts", created to raise awareness for breast cancer. But that's one item probably best not waved around in public.

What to wear: the must-have labels

Movember Moustache

Started in a Melbourne pub in 2003, Movember – growing a moustache for charity in November – has now raised £106m worldwide for prostate cancer research.

Comic Relief Red Nose

The first Red Nose Day was in 1988 and £4.5m of the £102m raised by Comic Relief in the past year came from nose sales.

Wear it Pink Day

Thousands have worn pink on the last Friday of October for the Breast Cancer Campaign since the campaign began in 2003.

been raised since the event's launch, with £2.5 million being donated last year alone.

World Aids Day Red Ribbon

The brainchild of 12 New York artists in 1991, it became globally recognisable when 100,000 were handed out at the Wembley Freddie Mercury tribute concert.

Marie Curie Daffodil

Worn in spring to symbolise hope and renewal, the daffodil was adopted by the cancer charity in 1986. £35m has been raised.

Remembrance Poppy

The 90-year-old symbols still raise nearly a third of the Royal British Legion's yearly funds.

Livestrong Wristband

Cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong's charity launched in 2004. 55 million wristbands sold in the first year.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Soft Developer (4.0, C#, Windows Services, Sockets, LINQ, WCF)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer (4.0, C#, Windows ...

C# Developer -Winforms, VB6 - Trading Systems - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading financial software house with its He...

C #Programmer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#) -Hertfordshire-Finance

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C #Developer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#, A...

JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Tr...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home