The History of Military Patches

Military Patches

Military patches are striking, beautiful symbols awarded to our men and women in the service. Since the Roman era, armed forces from around the globe have created and worn various insignia, badges, and patches. They served several important purposes, which are still prevalent today.

  • These designs communicated rank. They also showed which army or division you were fighting for.
  • To instill pride and fighting spirit. The patches and standards they fought under would inspire soldiers.
  • Royalty and military leaders awarded special badges and patches to soldiers to commemorate significant events.

Military Patches in The United States of America

British troops began wearing patches in the 1800s, but this practice was only for higher-ranking officers. It wouldn’t be until the Civil War that American troops would adopt the use of patches. Military patches were an easy and effective way to communicate a variety of important information, such as rank and expertise. Every patch was unique because they were all stitched or embroidered by hand. Sewing and embroidery machines hadn’t been invented yet.

Compared to the uniforms of today, military uniforms from the 19th century were very plain. When the American Civil War broke out, both Union and Rebel soldiers wore patches on their caps, sleeves and on their shirts, all hand-stitched by loved ones back home. Their use was minimal thanks to the high cost of materials and cotton and thread shortages.

World War One was the moment when military patches hit their stride. The Industrial Revolution had already taken place and newly invented sewing and embroidery machines streamlined patch production. The Army’s 81st Division created the first tactical patch. These troops were trained at Fort Jackson, which had a creek next to it, known as Wildcat Creek. Their patch had an embroidered wildcat against an olive green background. Soon, most divisions sported their own unique patches and many of them are now collector’s items.

World War Two Military Patches

Now that military patches had become the norm, designs became more intricate and creative. For example, during the second world war, the military commissioned Walt Disney Studios to create patch designs. 1200 insignias were created featuring your favorite Disney characters. The most popular patch had Donald Duck. The only Disney character not used for these patches was Bambi. Some officers felt it demeaned the integrity of their units having Disney characters on patches, but it brought a smile to soldier’s faces and was a tremendous morale booster.

Practically speaking, patches were used to identify a soldier’s division and what their role was in it. For example, if a soldier was in the infantry, the patch’s design would include an infantry inspired design, and medics would wear bright red crosses. Patches also served as symbols of recognition for a job well done. Higher ranking soldiers would have row upon row of patches sewn on to their uniforms and were a source of great pride.

Patches in the World War Two era were much brighter than previous generations. Brilliant reds, blues, and green patches were the norm, and became sought after collectibles by children back home. Kids would write letters to soldiers to boost morale, and for the soldiers to mail them patches for their collections.

The brilliant colors of the World War Two era military patches have mostly disappeared. Starting with the Vietnam War, patches became more subdued, so they’d blend better into a soldier’s uniform.

Other government agencies such as NASA have adopted the use of custom patches. Starting in the 1960s, each space mission had a unique patch created to symbolize it. NASA works with the astronauts on these missions to create the patches, which are worn on their space suits along with a patch of the American flag.

Marine Military Patches

Army Military Patches

Navy Military Patches

American Patch Creates Custom Military Patches

If you are inspired to design a custom patch, American Patch would love to make it for you. Unlike other patch companies, we offer free quotes and a complimentary physical sample of your patch. Most patch companies only offer customers a graphic rendering of a custom patch, but we know our customers want to touch and see their patch before they place the full order. We only fulfill orders of ten or more patches. Shipping is free, and the turnaround time is fast. Contact American Patch today for a free quote!