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Patches can be sewn onto many articles of clothing—including hats. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the significance of patches and the many ways they are used to send messages.
Though embroidery to show status has been around for thousands of years, patches embroidered specifically to show unity or rank is a relatively recent phenomenon. Nowadays, people display patches on their shirts, pants, vests, and hats to show their support for businesses and causes.
Scouting is one of the most recognized patch-sporting organizations in the world. With over 135 different merit badges, children age 5 through 17 can work on these different life skills and earn patches to show their achievements.
Patches in the military – especially United States military service – have been slightly controversial throughout history. It wasn’t until the early-to-mid 20th century that patches were used to show rank in the U.S military. These patches were often accompanied by patches showing different accomplishments or affiliations within the military.
During the Vietnam War, morale patches were widely used to boost spirits in a difficult environment. The patches were usually unofficial. They tended to be crude or funny and were handmade by local Vietnamese seamstresses. Because they were not officially sanctioned, these patches were attached to soldiers’ uniforms and helmets using Velcro for easy removal. Often, these patches were created to showcase soldiers’ shared experiences and trials, so they were highly personal and individualized. Many of these patches are one-of-a-kind, exceptionally discrete, and still popping up at special military auctions today.
Corporate Events and Causes
Many corporations and causes will give out hats with patches to spread awareness of their brand or purpose. Some organizations will even give out patches as a reward with the expectation that you will wear them proudly. One recent example was a television show called “Making It” hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. In the show, various crafters would receive coveted patches as an award for winning the challenge of the day.
All in all, people sport patches for the following reasons:
- Military rank or veteran status
- Business advertising
- Letterman jackets
- National parks uniforms
- As a means of differentiating themselves from others
- As a conversation starter
- To show dedication to a cause
Types of Patches
Gone are the days (thankfully) when you had to hand-embroider your own patches. Now there are special sewing machines that can churn out hundreds or thousands of identical patches in a fraction of the time it would take to sew a single patch by hand.
There are also a lot of different types of patches to choose from. Woven patches use a very thin thread which is good for highly detailed patches. Printed patches use thread to make an image that looks like a photograph. Traditional embroidered patches are made using thread on a stiff backing. Bullion looks like an embroidered patch, but it uses very thin wire stitches. Chenille patches are fuzzy, 3D patches that are good for comical or cartoony patches.
There are even some patches that don’t use thread at all. Some use lightweight PVC plastic that is pressed into a designated shape. Screen printed patches are made by creating a picture and transferring it to a patch using ink. Some patch-making companies will even make patches out of leather where the image is embroidered, painted, or burned into the patch.
The patch-making process is no longer as labor-intensive as it used to be, but there is still quite a bit of work that goes into it before a single patch is produced. Traditional patches start with an idea that is sketched out with paper and pencil. This design is then transferred to the computer using special software, and the patch-making company can create a single sample patch for the customer to approve or change.
Once the manufacturer is given the go-ahead by the customer, multiple patches are embroidered on a single piece of fabric. The stiff backing is then applied, and the design is cut out. Once it is cut out, a merrowed edge (the most common type of wrap-around edging that prevents fraying) is embroidered around the border of the patch to finish it off.
Depending on the reason for the patch, you can adhere it in a few different ways. Some patches just need to be pinned on, while others have special backing material that allows them to be ironed on, Velcroed on, or simply stuck on. Traditionally, patches are sewn on around the edges either by hand or using a sewing machine. Most hat patches will need to be Velcroed or stuck on (rather than sewed on) due to the rounded nature of headwear.
Hat patches are becoming more and more common among the younger generation, though you may see military veterans wearing them on their headwear during special events. For non-veterans, hat patches have come to symbolize individuality as there seems to be a patch for every event, cause, or whimsy out there.
If you are looking for individualized hat patches, small-batch shops through Etsy and other e-commerce platforms can provide you with just about anything your heart desires. For custom hats with emblems embroidered directly onto the hat (including 5-panels, snapbacks, dad hats, and more), contact Acme Hat Co. for a quote.