Embroidered patches on clothing are coming into fashion again. Historically, these patches have been used to denote military rank, social status, or other societal distinction. In modern times, iron on or sew on patches have been used as decorative insignias for fashion purposes. Patches are also common in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as each one represents learning a new skill or completing a task.
This article will provide some examples of the historical usage of patches for fashion and function:
1. Ancient civilizations
In the ancient era, custom embroidered patches were used worldwide. The exact origin of these patches in unknown, but there is proof of their existence in most major ancient societies. These patches were used primarily for identification, not fashion. Additionally, there were no sewing machines or embroidery machines, meaning that these patches had to be sewn by hand. Therefore, each one was unique.
2. Practical uses for patches
From ancient times up into the present day, patches have been an economical way to patch holes in clothing. Especially during economic depressions, sew on patches could prolong the life of clothing, so that it didn’t need to be replaced. For instance, this is one of the ways that families saved money during the American Great Depression. Sometimes, iron on patches are also used to patch holes for fashion reasons, as the look is unique and desirable.
3. Counterculture and solidarity patches
Through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, patches were a massive part of counterculture movements in the United States. They represented membership of various social movements, such as Civil Rights, Gay Rights, and the Anti-War Movement. Patches were also a way to represent someone’s solidarity with a movement, even if they weren’t a part of the demographic that was directly involved. These patches also entered the fashion world during these eras, where they remain even now.
4. Military patches
Nearly all countries use or have used patches in military settings. In general, these patches denote a soldier’s name, as well as what unit they are in. Embroidered patches can also dictate a member’s rank and other identifying information. Military patch usage has also entered civilian fashion in recent years, especially with other military styles entering common usage. This trend pairs well with military or tactical-style backpacks, bomber jackets, and footwear.