The history of patches

Patches are mostly seen on uniforms and some organizations’ shirts. Some of them are used to show support or help spread awareness, even in the simple act of displaying on a shirt sleeve. But who started making these circular patterns that can be adhered to clothes? Are they the ones who thought of making this a fashion statement? And what are the different kinds? Are there even different kinds of these badges?

Search online about the history of patches and you will be bombarded with an unclear explanation on how they were produced. As for their purpose, you’ll probably come across articles claiming that badges are mostly used for the uniforms of policemen, firefighters, or some other organization, and that they can help determine where a person studies or works at.


However, if we look at the history of embroidery, the craft most associated with the making of patches, the history of how these badges came to be may come to light. Embroidery is the art of decorating fabric using needle and yarn or thread. It dates back to around 3rd century BC in China and was done by hand. As time passed, it became easier to fit designs into small spaces. Embroidery hoops can also be used to make the designs more three-dimensional and makes it more aesthetically appealing.

Nowadays, an embroidered patch is made using digitized patterns and technology that can produce numerous copies of the Patches Design .

In the past however, the industrial revolution is when machines that can help with the craft of embroidery started popping up. Textile inventor Alphonse Kursheedt designed a machine that can make textiles out of looms and hand embroidery. His invention inspired Isaak Grumble to design a device that uses a continuous threaded needle and shuttle. He was the man behind the Stiffly Embroidery Machine.

Embroidered patches first served their purpose to create distinction during the 18th century. Soldiers were hard to distinguish from civilians and adding patches to military uniforms was able to solve that. Nowadays, they are mostly to show support of a cause or membership in an organization.

They come in different kinds of backing. This is to strengthen the design and the preference of the owner on how to attach it on their clothing is also considered. There is a patch that has an iron-on backing. Simply place the design on the fabric as desired then place a pressing cloth before pressing the iron down for 20 seconds. Increase the temperature to 375 degrees before turning the cloth inside out to press the iron down again. They come with an adhesive at the back that melts when heat makes contact with the patch, securing it to the garment of choice. This kind of backing is perfect for a patch that is not circular since the adhesive helps with making sure the edges will not fray in time.

Another has a Velcro as its backing. This is the most convenient of all since you can instantly alternate one patch to another with minimal to no effort exerted. However, chances of losing the patch is pretty high with how the Velcro can be easily removed.

Plastic backing can help add stiffness to the patch and can help make it sturdier. This kind of backing is ideal for garments that will be worn frequently. It has a downside though – sewing this kind of patch will require effort and skill as the patch is now harder with the plastic. The most basic of all is the sewn-on patch, its major advantage being it fully secured to the shirt and there is no need to worry about the patch getting lost or removed during washing.