Military Patches: Behind the Cloth and Stitch

Truth be told, military patches are more than mere decorations on a soldier’s uniform. They are true works of art that symbolize both pride and identity. Military personnel and civilians alike can appreciate their intricate designs and colors, though the value they can see in them are different.Members of the military, whether retired or not, see these patches as a source of great pride and belonging. The veterans are notable for keeping the patches they collected over the years in pristine condition. Military patches are a memento of the years they spent in service.

Civilians, on the other hand, value the intrigue provided by these patches. The designs of patches vary for every branch of the military. Individual units and corps even have their own. All of them had no doubt used patches as a metaphor for what they do or had done. Civilians have fun trying to decode their meanings and collect a lot of patches to do so.

Military PatchesThe designs seen in patches are not made so easily. The process is as complicated as designing logos for company brands. The patch design has to symbolize the meaning intended by its wearers. The colors, images, and patterns have to mean something. Hence, extensive research is done to achieve accurate representation and wearer satisfaction.The colors on patches are chosen according to the type of uniform they would be attached to. Bright colors are for dress uniforms while subdued colors are used for battle uniforms. Camouflage uniforms require the military patches to have colors that can blend with them.

In 1942, the research and design for patches was a responsibility of the Army Quartermaster Corps. The task however was eventually given to the Institute of Heraldry of the Army Adjutant General’s Office in the 1960s. It is a duty they still upholdto this day.Even at present, patches are sewn by hand like in the past. The fabric backing is cut and heat sealed. It is then embroidered with the desired design. Before the advent of technology, the process of making patches ends there but nowadays, an iron-on adhesive is applied to the backing for a better finish.

Technology brings efficiency in making patches. Machines yield faster production. Some can even scan a previous design made by hand and then recreate it immediately with sewing machines. Military patches are also called shoulder sleeve insignia. The name is derived from the fact that the patches are always attached on the shoulder part of the military uniform. It can be sewn or embroidered in the sleeves. With the advent of modern technology, attachment of patches had become easier with Velcro.

It is not only on the shoulders of military personnel that the patches are seen. They can be attached to head gears as well such as helmets, caps, and berets. Soldiers can even put their patches on their backpacks.

The patches are also detachable. Personnel can move from one branch to another. Soldier can be transferred from unit to unit. Their affiliations change. Every change comes with a new patch. It is a choice whether to remove the older patch they use or keep it with the new one on the uniforms. Many accumulate a good number of patches over the years of service.

Military patches are now a collector’s item. They can be collected and traded by veterans and civilians alike. While the market value of these patches is rather small, the meanings and fragment of history they hold within their stitches is priceless. The most sought-after patches are those worn during the Second World War and Vietnam War.