A Brief History of Military Patches

  • By a2kpatch
  • 07 Mar, 2017
Military patches are worn to denote a variety of things including rank, division and skill set. The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard uniforms have various embroidered patches, also known as shoulder sleeve insignias (SSI). The patches are usually sewn or attached with Velcro on the shoulder sleeves of military uniforms. Although commonplace in modern military history, military patches are a relatively new addition to military attire.
Embroidered military patches were first worn in the 1800’s by British soldiers, but were only worn by officers to signify their higher rank. Patches became an effective way to distinguish between divisions in military units, and the idea soon spread to America. Before the Civil War, military uniforms were remarkably unadorned and void of any decoration.
In the Civil War, soldiers from the Union and Confederate armies wore identification on their forage caps, rank strips on their sleeves and informal patches on their shirts. The Union army tended to have more military patches than the Confederate army, but their wives usually hand sewed patches at home as they were not yet mass-produced. Both Union and Confederate armies had limited patches due to small supplies of cotton and thread, the location of soldiers, and the high cost of materials during the war.

It wasn’t until World War I that a general named John J. Pershing officially authorized the limited use military patches on uniforms. During World War I, most of the patches were variations of the Chevron design. The intricate variations of the Chevron design signified rank, division and the skill sets of soldiers. However, the first formal World War I patches were worn by the Army’s 81st Division “Wildcats” in 1918. They were a dull olive felt patch with the silhouette of a wildcat.

By World War II, the military became more organized and produced custom patches that clearly defined a soldier's rank, corps, divisions, and brigades. During WW2 the colors of the patches tended to be much more bright and had specific significance. For example, if a soldier belonged to a division where he operated tanks, he would wear a tank inspired patck. Medics in the Army would wear with bright Red Cross embroidered patches to appear more visible on the battlefield. High-ranking soldiers could have dozens of patches to honor their high ranks and achievements. Even the lowest ranking soldier had at least one patch. Collecting military patches became so popular during World War II that young children often wrote soldiers asking for them to send their patches in the mail to add to their collection.

During the Vietnam and Gulf War, the patches became much more subdued and harmonious with the colors of the soldier's uniforms. In July 1970, it became mandatory for soldiers to wear their military patches on their field uniforms.

Military Patches have now become very commonplace inside the branches of the military. The historical symbolism of each patch has created an active collectors market inside and outside the military, especially for rare, limited-edition patches. These different patches have now become an important part of military history.
Marine Eagle Globe Anchor Insignia
Marine Eagle Globe Anchor Patch
The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is the official emblem and insignia of the United States Marine Corps.
The current emblem traces its roots in the designs and ornaments of the early Continental Marines as well as the United Kingdom's Royal Marines.

Embroidered Patches

By a2kpatch 07 Mar, 2017
Military patches are worn to denote a variety of things including rank, division and skill set. The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard uniforms have various embroidered patches, also known as shoulder sleeve insignias (SSI). The patches are usually sewn or attached with Velcro on the shoulder sleeves of military uniforms. Although commonplace in modern military history, military patches are a relatively new addition to military attire.
By a2kpatch 02 Mar, 2017
Achieving fine detail with embroidery is an art in itself. Different types of stitches and incorporating different shades of colors help to add depth and dimension to patches. 

Let our artist turn your patch ideas into reality. We can work with your sketch or artwork and turn it into a finished product like this. All design work is done in-house in the U.S.A. 
Just use one of the contact forms on this website to receive a quote or more information on the process.
Share by: