Patches are clothing embellishments that are much more than simple adornments. A small patch can bring a bigger story to the clothing—a story about the person who wears it. The simple, lowly, unassuming piece of fabric has originally been used to cover holes and threadbare areas in garments. Today, the use of patches has expanded.
The practice of placing patches on clothes has been around for a long time. People have found several uses for it, from its original purpose of patching or covering holes to becoming a symbol. Designs have become more diverse, depending on the purposes of these patches. Over time, different meanings have been attached to patches based on the designs and where they are worn.
The military, in particular, has its share of military patches, not to cover the worn out areas in their uniforms, but to signify something else. For years, the military uniform has evolved, from the simple peasant clothing of old wars to the more distinguished dress uniforms of today. Along with the improvement in military fashion, is the introduction of the military patches. These small pieces of fabric are sewn on certain areas of the uniform.
This type of patch is worn on the soldiers’ uniforms, as mandated by military decrees. It is placed in prominent areas to denote rank, branch, unit assignment and special qualifications. This can be handy when the uniforms are all very similar. It can be used as a means for identification. For example, when in combat, one can easily spot a comrade through a patch on the garments.
Traditionally, military patches show the rank of the wearer, what branch he is serving under and his current unit assignment. In the case of non-commissioned officers, the number of rockers or chevrons on the patch denotes rank.
Sometimes, special patches are given out and worn. These special patches are made for soldiers who were part of a special operation. There are times when soldiers from a division are selected for a specific mission. They may be chosen on a per assignment basis. Sometimes they may have been set apart to form an elite group within a group. This may also occur across the military. There are times when representatives or exceptional soldiers from different branches of the military are taken to form one cohesive group for a joint operation.
These men and women are given patches for their membership and for the success of their elite group’s goals. The patches can be worn over the service uniforms, so that during the mission, they can easily distinguish their comrades from personnel from other friendly units. Note, however, that soldiers on sensitive missions do not wear anything that can compromise their identities. For example, they do not wear name patches that the enemy can use to gain more information to be used against the soldier. Or it may be worn on their dress uniforms signifying an achievement of belonging to that special elite group.
Military patches are important parts of a soldier’s uniform. Each patch has a special designated place. They are worn in just the right places. They may just be a piece of fabric but they have their own place and their own meaning. For example, the US flag is sewn on the sleeves, not on the shoulders. The name patch is placed above the right breast pocket. The patch that denotes unit assignment is placed on the left shoulder. They are not placed in random areas because some patches would carry different meanings if the positions were altered. It is part of the uniform that deserves respect and reverence.